by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Sugars

Oct 12 2021

The Sugar Association vs. Artificial Sweeteners

As I mentioned yesterday, the American Beverage Association represents the interests of soft drink companies that use sugars and artificial sweeteners in their products.  Its goal: to make you think both are just fine for your health.

Today, let’s take a look at a related, but different trade association, this one The Sugar Association.  Its goal: to make you not worry about sugars and to think that they are better for you than artificial sweeteners.

Here, for example, is a press release from this Association from this past summer: New Research Shows Large Majority of Consumers Understand Real Sugar Comes from Plants & That it Can Be Part of a Healthy Diet; Data reveals significant shift in perceptions of sugar and artificial sweeteners.

And here is its infographic showing data on public suspicions of artificial sweeteners.

Now, we have a new campaign from The Sugar Association: The Campaign for Sweetener Transparency.

More than 10,000 consumers across the United States have joined the fight for sweeping reform of the government’s labeling regulations covering the use of alternative sweeteners in packaged food by signing an online petition urging the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to require food companies to place clear, complete and accurate information on food labels…it’s virtually impossible for shoppers to know what alternative sweeteners are in which packaged foods because the FDA only requires food companies to list the chemical names of sugar substitutes on food ingredient labels. So, consumers only see names like Xylitol, Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates, Saccharin, Acesulfame Potassium, Neotame, Isomalt and Lactitol on ingredients lists without even knowing what they are and why they are used.

The Sugar Association wants artificial sweeteners clearly labeled so customers will switch to products that have sugars instead.

  • Products containing artificial sweeteners fall in the category of ultra-processed—foods that should be avoided or eaten in small amounts.
  • Products containing added sugars also should be avoided or eaten in small amounts.

That’s why this campaign is about market share, not health.

For a basic guide to what to do about sugars, see this resource guide from Hunter’s Food Policy Center.

Jun 24 2021

Do product reformulation strategies make any nutritional difference?

That’s my question when I see what food companies are trying to do to reduce the content of sugar and salt in their ultra-processed junk food products.

To put it another way, does making an ultra-processed food or beverage slightly better for you convert it to a good choice?

We can argue about this, but companies really are trying hard, as this collection of articles from FoodNavigator.com indicates.

Special Edition: Nutrition and reformulation strategies

Most shoppers say they want to reduce consumption of products that are high in fat, salt and sugar. But many struggle to cut HFSS foods and beverages from their diets and reformulation efforts often face the headwind of perceived quality issues. Meanwhile, the fortified food market in Europe is expected to see a CAGR of 5.2% through to 2025. While reformulation efforts take out the ‘baddies’ is there also an opportunity to add positive nutrients through fortification?

Jun 23 2021

Sugars consumption dropping for 20 years straight

The USDA’s Economic Research Service, back on the job, has the latest statistics on the availability of sugars in the U.S. food supply.

Availability means the amount produced plus imports less exports, per year, per capita.

It is not the same as consumption (availability is likely to be higher), but it is an accurate indicator of trends.

The chart shows:

  • Availability of sugars peaked in about 1999 and has been going down ever since.
  • The increase was almost entirely in corn sweeteners—high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and the like.
  • The rise in HFCS was due to its substitution for sucrose (the sugar in beets and cane), in soft drinks starting in the late 1970s.  Soft drinks account for close to half of available sugars.
  • Cane and beet sugar (sucrose) fell with substitution of HFCS, but started to increase again as HFCS got a bad reputation.
  • Total availability of all sugars is now around 120 pounds per person per year.

What does 120 pounds per capita per year mean?

  • Calculation: 120 pounds per capita x 454 grams per pound divided by 365 days per year = 149 grams per day per capita (approaching 40 teaspoons)
  • This means about 600 calories available from sugars per day per person (which, in turn, refers to every man, woman, child, and infant in the country).  This is a lot of sugars.

Current Dietary Guidelines say sugars should not exceed 10% of daily calories.  For diets of 2000 calories a day, that means no more than 50 grams of sugars (one gram of sugar = about 4 calories).

Therefore, the U.S. food supply provides at least three times the upper amount of sugars recommended.

Pretty much everyone would be healthier eating less sugar, if for no other reason than that they provide calories but minimal or no nutrients.

Their lack of nutritional value applies to sugars of all kinds, refined and unrefined, no matter their source: beets, cane, honey, sorghum, or maple trees.

The downward trend is in the right direction.

Mar 29 2021

Annals of marketing: honey to dietitians

A dietitian colleague forwarded this message from Today’s Dietitian.

Honey may be made by bees, but it is mainly glucose and fructose just like any other sugars.

A few “food-for-thought” questions:

  • Should dietetic publications be promoting sugars of any kind?
  • Should dietitians be recommending honey to their clients?
  • Should dietitians allow their publications to accept ads like this?

 

Mar 10 2021

New York City’s terrific food initiatives

New York City is taking big steps to improve its food system.   Two reports are worth noting, one from the Mayor’s office and one from the Health Department.

I.  Mayor Bill de Blasio and Kate MacKenzie, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy (MOFP) have released Food Forward NYC: A 10-Year Food Policy Plan.

Here’s how they introduce this impressive report:

Food Forward NYC is the City’s first ever 10-year food policy plan, laying out an comprehensive policy framework to reach a more equitable, sustainable, and healthy food system by 2031.

Food Forward NYC emphasizes the importance of equity and choice – enabling a food system where everyone should be able to access the food they want wherever they may want it. To enable this choice, we need to support both our food workers and our food businesses. To strengthen the sustainability and resiliency of our food system, we need to rethink our food infrastructure and deepen our connections with the region.

Food Forward NYC is organized around five overarching goals:

  1. All New Yorkers have multiple ways to access healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food.
  2. New York City’s food economy drives economic opportunity and provides good jobs.
  3. The supply chains that feed New York City are modern, efficient, and resilient.
  4. New York City’s food is produced, distributed, and disposed of sustainably.
  5. Support the systems and knowledge to implement the 10-year food policy plan.

The full report is here.  It was prepared in response to Local Law 40 of 2020 and recommendations from the New York City Council’s 2019 report, Growing Food Equity in New York City.  

New York City is a complicated place and it’s wonderful to have all this information put together in such a coherent way.  Let’s hope everyone gets behind this and puts the recommendations into action.

II.  The Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention at the NYC Health Department has an update on its  National Salt and Sugar Reduction Initiative (NSSRI).

In October 2018, the Bureau announced draft sugar reduction targets.  Now they have updated them and added targets for salt reduction, as well.  As I was informed in an e-mail,

The NSSRI is a partnership of over 100 local city and state health departments, associations, and health organizations, convened by the NYC Department of Health. We have set voluntary sugar reduction targets for 15 categories of food and beverages. The targets represent a 10% reduction in sugar content of products by 2023, and a 20% reduction by 2026 for food with a 40% reduction for beverages.

The current public health landscape demonstrates that diet remains critical, even during a public health emergency like COVID-19. Diet-related health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, which can increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19, are important to address right now.

Here’s what one of the sugar reduction targets looks like:

The objective of NSSRI is this:

To promote gradual, achievable and meaningful reductions in sugar content in packaged foods and beverages. This is because intake of added sugars is associated with increased risk of excess weight, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease and cavities.

The targets are indeed gradual; the hope it that they will be met by 2026.

The targets are, of course, voluntary.  The best NSSRI can do is to encourage companies to comply and hold them accountable.

It’s a start.

Dec 14 2020

Food industry marketing ploy of the week: exploiting Covid-19

I am indebted to BeverageDaily.com, for this item(and to Lisa Young for sending it to me).

Coca-Cola says:

In a year defined by a global pandemic, Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign is dedicated to ‘holiday heroes’ – those who have gone the extra mile by dedicating time, energy and attention to their friends, families and communities…For 100 years, Coca-Cola has been known for bringing magic and cheer to the Christmas holiday…Now, alongside its iconic Santa and polar bears, Coca-Cola is celebrating the season by putting the spotlight on everyday heroes. Coca-Cola wants to help people feel connected, and to celebrate friends, family and people in the community who deserve an extra special gift of things, especially in an unprecedented year.

This, recall, is about marketing a sugary beverage strongly associated with poor diets, obesity, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease, all well established as risk factor for poor outcomes of Covid-19.

Here’s what MarketingDive says the campaign is about.

Comment: Educators, doctors, and caregivers ought to be advising everyone they deal with to do what they can to consume sugary beverages infreuently, and in extremely small amounts, if at all.   And that’s good advice for everyone in this holiday seaseon.

Dec 9 2020

Food in the Coronavirus era: cookie addiction ?

Tobacco, alcohol, and opioids are not enough; now we have cookie addiction to contend with?

For this I am indebted to Rija, whom I do not know, but who emailed me this message:

To celebrate National Cookie Day, TOP Data conducted a study and found that American cookie consumption has increased by over 25% during COIVD.  So much so that now 1 in 5 Americans are considered cookie addicts, consuming over 3 cookies per day.

Cookie Day Insights:

  1.  Cookie Consumption across the country has risen 20% during COVID
  2.  1 in 5 Americans consume 3+ cookies on an average day
  3.  Utah leads the nation in cookie consumption
  4.  The 7 states that love cookies the least are all in the south

To see where your state ranks check out the full report and infographic.

Who knew that someone was keeping these kinds of statistics.

More than 16 percent of Americans consume 96 or more cookies a month?

One third of Americans has a cookie a day?

How big are those cookies?

Recall: big ones have more sugar and more calories.

I’m all for cookies, but small ones please.

No wonder some people are at high risk for bad outcomes from Covid-19.

Oct 30 2020

Food marketing effort of the weekend: Happy Halloween!

You might think that Halloween is—or was pre-Covid—a fun activity for your kids, but it’s underlying purpose is to sell candy, as much as possible to as many people as possible.  It’s a big part of total annual candy sales (Valentine’s Day is another).

Let’s start with The Counter’s account of how the candy industry convinced everyone to buy record-breaking amounts of candy, while public health authories were discouraging trick-or-treating.

Is it possible to trick-or-treat safely?  Suggestions:

What’s happening with Halloween in New York City?

ConfectionaryNews.com has produced a Special Edition: Fright night: How American candy companies are gearing up for Halloween

No doubt, Halloween is going to feel different this year, but as John Downs, president and CEO of the NCA [National Confectioners Association] says: “it isdefinitely happening!​”

In this special edition newsletter we focus on how the confectionery industry in the USA is preparing for one of its main holiday seasons.  Halloween is estimated to generate over $4bn in revenue for candy companies and while the festivities are going ahead, the emphasis is on staying safe and following guidelines.

To help consumers and its members prepare for this year’s event the NCA has launched its Halloween Central portal with up-to-date advice from top health experts on how to celebrate safely.  With online sales of candy soaring, we look at an innovative solution from Mars Wrigley with the launch of its virtual Treat Town app for those who are unable to join the outdoor fun this year.  We also report on how other big companies, including Hershey and Ferrero, intend to lift spirits this Halloween – and new kid on the block Stuffed Puffs completes our round-up with a spooky twist on a camp-fire classic.

Check-out the articles below to find out more – and have fun but stay safe this Halloween.