by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Ultraprocessed

Sep 8 2020

Marketing ploy of the week—and for schools, yet

Sigh.

 

According to Business Wire, Kraft Heinz, the company that owns Capri Sun, is donating “5 Million Pouches of CAPRI SUN Filtered Water to School Districts as Schools Turn Off Water Fountains”

The brand apologizes for swapping juice for filtered water and captured reactions of kids in a light-hearted campaign

PITTSBURGH & CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–While every schools’ plan to return looks different this year, kids know that recess will be on recess, masks won’t just be for Halloween and that water fountains will be off limits. CAPRI SUN knows this is a hard time for kids, so to help students have a safe and fun way to get water this school year, the brand is swapping its juice for filtered water. CAPRI SUN is donating 5 million filtered water pouches to schools in the Chicagoland area and Granite City, where its factory is located.

The company is running a sweepstakes to accompany its donations.

Shouldn’t we be happy that the company is donating water, and not the typical Capri Sun sugary drinks?

No.  Why?

  • This is marketing aimed at children (children can’t tell the difference between information and marketing, unless taught).
  • This is marketing a sugary beverage brand to children (children are highly susceptible to this kind of marketing).
  • This is marketing packaged water to children (tap water is drinkable in most places in the U.S.  If not, schools should be providing readily available urns of water).
  • The total value of the sweepstakes prizes is $400 spread across five “winners”(pretty cheap)
  • Capri Sun markets its products as juice drinks (but typically have 10% or 0% juice)

I was curious to see what the company says about its products, and looked up this one.

Doesn’t this look healthy?  Here’s what’s in it (note: concentrates are a euphemism for sugars):

FILTERED WATER; SUGAR; PEAR AND GRAPE JUICE CONCENTRATES; CITRIC ACID; ORANGE, APPLE, AND PINEAPPLE JUICE CONCENTRATES; NATURAL FLAVOR.

One pouch contains 13 grams of added sugars.

These are ultraprocessed sugary drinks, best avoided or consumed only rarely, and never marketed to children.

Aug 10 2020

Food marketing ploy of the week: Kraft Mac & Cheese for breakfast!

In case you missed it, Kraft Mac & Cheese is now “approved for breakfast.”

Why?  Blame this on Covid-19 and parents having to deal with kids at home all day under lockdown.

It’s all about the small parenting wins these days and serving Kraft Mac & Cheese as part of a balanced breakfast is a sure-fire way to start the day off with a smile. Kids are full and far less cranky, while parents can peacefully work from home, teach, and do the millions of other tasks required of them.

So for the first time, Kraft is replacing “dinner” with “breakfast” on their iconic blue box of macaroni & cheese because it’s acceptable to enjoy deliciously cheesy Kraft Mac & Cheese for breakfast – or any time of day.

When it comes to food marketing, you can’t make this stuff up.
Thanks to Tony Vassallo, “Man on a Nutrition Mission™,” for sending me this gem.

Oct 23 2019

Ultraprocessed foods: US vs. UK

Vani Hari, a.k.a. The Food Babe, is interested in getting rid of artificial food additives.  She asks an interesting question.  If American companies can eliminate them for sales in Britain, why can’t they do that here?

She has put together lots of surprising examples.  Here is just one.

Impressive, no?

I hope this encourages some changes on these shores.

Sep 17 2019

Natural Products Expo: all boxes checked

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore on Saturday and worth the trip it was.

Here is where to see—and taste—what’s happening in health foods: ultra-processed (drinks, crackers, puffs) and not (nut butters, smoked fish).

Impressions

This is a huge market: the exhibits took up three full floors of two buildings in the convention center.  I think I only managed to wander through about half of them.

The big news is hemp.  An entire section of one of the floors was devoted to CBD oils, pills, and balms, but hemp booths were also scattered throughout.  I didn’t see many edibles—just a few gummy bears.

The buzz words are “all boxes checked.”  I heard this many times.  My favorite example: hemp water (“hydrate your body to the fullest”).  Here’s its list:

  • All natural
  • No artificial flavors
  • No THC
  • No preservatives
  • Gluten free
  • Dairy free
  • Sugar free
  • Sodium free
  • Zero calories
  • Non-GMO
  • Vegan

Everyone wants to get into Whole Foods.  When I asked small producers where I could find their products, one after another said this.

Plant-based products are on the move.  I tried oat- and coconut-based ice creams (not bad, but still can’t compete with the 17% fat dairy versions, alas).

Jul 31 2019

Junk food encourages overeating: the evidence piles up

I was fascinated to see this article about how offering kids greater amounts and varieties of snack foods encourages them to eat more and, therefore, take in more calories.  Snack variety has a greater effect than just larger package sizes (1).

This article immediately reminded me of the infamous cafeteria diet studies of the late 1980s.  The investigators fed rats all kinds of junk foods and compared the calories they ate to those eaten by control rats allowed only rat chow.  The cafeteria-fed rats ate more (2).

This, of course, is what Kevin Hall and his colleagues found when adults were allowed to eat as much as they wanted of ultraprocessed junk foods (3).

The message is clear: junk food encourages overeating; overeating means taking in more calories; more calories means more weight.  Eating a lot of junk food is a sufficient explanation for obesity.

References

  1.  Kerr JA, et al. Child and adult snack food intake in response to manipulated pre-packaged snack item quantity/variety and snack box size: a population-based randomized trial. International Journal of Obesity (2019).
  2. Prats E, et al.  Energy intake of rats fed a cafeteria diet.  Physiol Behav. 1989 Feb;45(2):263-72.
  3. Hall K, et al.  Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake .  Cell Metabolism 2019; 30:67–77.
Jun 4 2019

Industry-supported review of the week: critique of ultra-processed

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, research is pouring in (see below) about the benefits of avoiding consumption of ultra-processed foods, those that are more than minimally processed and contain added sources of calories, salt, and color, flavor, and texture additives.

Since ultra-processed foods are among the most profitable, the makers of such foods wish this term would disappear.  Hence, this paper.

Julie Miller Jones.  Food processing: criteria for dietary guidance and public health? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (2019), 78,4 –18

Conclusions: “No studies or β-testing show that consumers can operationalise NOVA’s [the non-acronym name given to this food classification system] definitions and categories to choose nutrient-rich foods, to eschew foods of low nutritional quality and improve diets and health outcomes. Further, there are significant concerns about NOVA’s actionability and practicality for various lifestyles, skillsets and resource availability.

Financial Support: The staff from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, ASN [American Society for Nutrition], IFT [Institute of Food Technologists] and IFIC [International Food Information Council] assisted with the planning and facilitation of the conference calls and with the review and editing of the manuscript. No specific grant from any funding agency, commercial or not-for-profit sectors was received for the development of this manuscript.

Conflicts of Interest: Julie Miller Jones is a scientific advisor to the Grains Food Foundation, The Healthy Grains Institute (Canada), Quaker Oats Advisory Board, and the Campbell Soup Company Plant and Health Advisory Board. She has written papers of given speeches for Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Mexico), Cranberry Institute, and Tate and Lyle.

Comment: What most disturbs me about this review is its sponsorship by two major U.S. nutrition societies, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and ASN, whose first goal ought to be promoting public health.  Instead, they speak here for the food industry [I devote chapters to both organizations in Unsavory Truth].

The other two groups would be expected to support food-industry marketing objectives.  The IFT is the trade association for food scientists; it works for the food industry.  The IFIC Foundation positions itself as “dedicated to the mission of effectively communicating science-based information on health, nutrition and food safety for the public good” but is sponsored by food companies; this makes it a front group for the food industry.

Two more papers finding benefits for the ultra-processed concept just appeared in the BMJ.  These are discussed and cited here.

May 21 2019

Obesity explained: Ultra-processed foods –> Calories –> Weight Gain

Kevin Hall at NIH has done a controlled diet study demonstrating that people who consume ultra-processed foods eat more calories—500 more a day (!)—and, therefore, gain weight.

Carlos Monteiro at the University of São Paulo and his colleagues explain how to identify ultra-processed foods.  

They also demonstrate that ultra-processed foods comprise nearly 60 percent of calorie intake.

No surprise.  Calories matter, as Mal Nesheim and I explained in our book Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics (and thanks Kevin for confirming what we wrote in that book).

The clear conclusions of this study have elicited a lot of attention.  Here’s my favorite from Francis Collins, the head of NIH and Kevin Hall’s boss, who also did a blog post:

Examples of media accounts (there were lots more)

Nov 27 2018

The latest in dietetic junk food

My colleagues who attended the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual meeting and Expo brought back examples of what I love to call dietetic junk foods.

The big trends in such products are gluten-free and allergy-free—apparently without much regard for taste (at least by my standards).

Here is an example of a gluten-free product: 

Check the ingredient list:

Cane sugar, pea starch, potato starch,non-hydrogenated shortening (palm oil, modified palm oil), white rice flour, tapioca starch, water, tapioca syrup, pea protein, salt, pea fiber, natural flavor, modified cellulose, inulin, sodium bicarbonate, sunflower lecithin, beta-carotene (color).

And, in case you were worried, it’s “not a product of genetic engineering.”

To me they taste like chalk, but sweet.

Here’s an example of an allergy-free product:

It too has a long ingredient list:

Organic rolled oats, rice protein crisps (rice protein, rice starch), tapioca syrup, cocoa butter, pearled sorghum crisps, organic caramel (organic cane sugar, water), date paste, brown sugar, dried banana, roasted and salted sunflower seeds (sunflower kernels, sunflower oil, salt) safflower oil, white pearled sorghum flour, popped sorghum.

But this one is remarkable for what it does not contain:

I did not particularly like the texture or taste (off flavors) of this one.

Apparently, the Expo had loads of these.

Why?  Real (relatively unprocessed) foods are less profitable, alas.