April 30, 2010

FDA Seeking Comments on Calorie and Nutrition Labeling

From the FDA CFSAN website:

April 29, 2010

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a request, in the Federal Register, for data and other information the agency can use as it considers ways to make nutrition information more useful to consumers; for example, on "front-of-pack" labeling (the main display panel on products) and shelf tags in retail stores. The deadline for submitting comments is July 28, 2010.

FDA is particularly interested in receiving data and information on:

    • the extent to which consumers notice, use, and understand nutrition symbols on front-of-pack labeling or shelf tags;
    • results of research that assessed and compared the effectiveness of potential approaches to front-of-pack labeling;
    • graphic design, marketing, and advertising that can contribute to development of nutrition information that is more useful to consumers;
    • the extent to which nutrition labeling affects food manufacturers’ decisions about the contents of their products.

The goal of this request is to make calorie and nutrition information available to consumers in ways that will help them choose foods for more healthful diets – an effort that has taken on special importance, given the prevalence of obesity and diet-related diseases in the U.S. and of increasingly busy lifestyles that demand quick, nutritious food.

Post by Donna M. Byrne, Professor of Law, William Mitchell College of Law

April 30, 2010 in Labeling, nutrition policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 13, 2010

Students Stand Up for Healthier Food at School

School lunch The battle against school lunch has a new and powerful voice: students.

According to the Chicago Tribune, at a March 24 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students came before the board to complain about the food served at their schools. Describing the “sickening pizza”, “hard bread” and “tan-colored slop”, the students made a compelling case for new food options at their schools, asserting that their health was at risk.

One student described the plight of lower-income students who rely on school lunch to provide the nutrition they need each day, but instead are served high-fat, low-quality meals. Available fruits and vegetables were described as sub-par, such as brown lettuce and moldy fruit. CPS student Asia Snyder was reportedly direct: “You feed us fat, greasy, disgusting meals . . ..It’s what’s making us fat.”

Bob Bloomer, regional vice president of Chartwells-Thompson (the provider of food for 478 CPS schools), declared that students are the problem, stating that food offerings like whole-grain nachos and pizza with low-fat meat are the best they can do, because “we try to make what they like healthy and low-fat”.

However, CPS CEO Rob Huberman vowed that there would be change, stating that the coming weeks would see a “big restructuring of the food services process.” Additionally, a CPS spokeswoman said that schools would see more healthy options added, and it has been reported that CPS is already phasing out items such as nachos, doughnuts and pop-tarts. In fact, last week the Chicago Public Schools announced new nutritional standards for school meals.

Read more:

Chicago Tribune, Students lament state of school meals, 3-24-10
Chicago Sun-Times, No raves for CPS lunches, 3-25-10
Chicago Public Schools press release, 4-7-10

Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Erin Rohne for preparing this post.  Ms. Rohne is a student of Professor Donna M. Byrne.

April 13, 2010 in Children, nutrition policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 21, 2009

FDA analyzing front of package labels

Food traffic light The FDA has issued a Dear Industry letter on front of package or point of purchase nutrition labeling.

From the Institute of Food Technologists Weekly:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Oct. 20 that it would seek to clear up the confusion caused by a surge of nutritional claims that manufacturers have begun to make on packaged food labels. Point of purchase labeling including Front of Package (FOP) labeling is voluntary information that is intended to convey to consumers the nutritional attributes of a food. Point of purchase labeling often includes symbols that are typically linked to a set of nutritional criteria developed by food manufacturers, grocery stores, trade organizations, and health organizations. The selected nutrients and the nutrient levels required for eligibility vary among the different symbol programs in use.  continue

The graphic above is the traffic light version that has been floating about for some time now.


October 21, 2009 in Labeling, nutrition policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 17, 2009

Soda Tax in the News

Proposed taxes on sugar sodas seem to be getting a lot of ink lately. President Obama thinks it's worth considering (blogged here).

A recent study by a star-studded cast of nutrition and obesity experts published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week is stirring things up. :The Public Health and Economic Benefits of Taxing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, (by Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D., Thomas Farley, M.D., M.P.H., Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., Barry M. Popkin, Ph.D., Frank J. Chaloupka, Ph.D., Joseph W. Thompson, M.D., M.P.H., and David S. Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D.)

. . .Taxation has been proposed as a means of reducing the intake of [sugar-sweetened] beverages and thereby lowering health care costs, as well as a means of generating revenue that governments can use for health programs. Currently, 33 states have sales taxes on soft drinks (mean tax rate, 5.2%), but the taxes are too small to affect consumption and the revenues are not earmarked for programs related to health. This article examines trends in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, evidence linking these beverages to adverse health outcomes, and approaches to designing a tax system that could promote good nutrition and help the nation recover health care costs associated with the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. . . .

New York Times, Sept. 16, 2009: Proposed Tax on Sugary Beverages Debated

. . . a team of prominent doctors, scientists and policy makers says it could be a powerful weapon in efforts to reduce obesity, in the same way that cigarette taxes have helped curb smoking.

The group, which includes the New York City health commissioner, Thomas Farley, and Joseph W. Thompson, Arkansas surgeon general, estimates that a tax of a penny an ounce on sugary beverages would raise $14.9 billion in its first year, which . . .

ABCNews.go.com, Sept. 16, 2009: Public Health Leaders Propose Soda Tax

. . ."A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is really a double-win," said Dr. David Ludwig, a co-author of the paper and director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children's Hospital, Boston. "We can raise much-needed dollars while likely reducing obesity prevalence, which is a major driver of health care costs, the paper states. "Ultimately the government needs to raise more money to cover the deficit, and in terms of ways of raising that revenue, a tax on sugar sweetened beverages is really a no-brainer.". . .

September 17, 2009 in Legislation, nutrition policy, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 09, 2009

Criticism and Concern over "Smart Choices" Green Checkmarks

From the New York Times:

For Your Health, Froot Loops

. . . The green checkmark label that is starting to show up on store shelves will appear on hundreds of packages, including — to the surprise of many nutritionists — sugar-laden cereals like Cocoa Krispies and Froot Loops.

“These are horrible choices,” said Walter C. Willett, chairman of the nutrition department of the Harvard School of Public Health. . .

Read more

September 9, 2009 in marketing, nutrition policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Obama Says Soft Drink Tax Worth Considering

From the New York Daily News:

. . . The President, in an interview with Men's Health Magazine released yesterday, said he thought taxing soda and other sugary drinks is worth putting on the table as Congress debates health care reform.

"It's an idea that we should be exploring," the president said. "There's no doubt that our kids drink way too much soda. And every study that's been done about obesity shows that there is as high a correlation between increased soda consumption and obesity as just about anything else."

Read more from New York Daily News

Read the Men's Health interview with President Obama

September 9, 2009 in nutrition policy, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

American Heart Association: Eat Less Sugar

The American Heart Association is now recommending we eat less sugar.  This is probably good news, since there's a possible sugar shortage ahead (blogged here).

From the AHA website:

Study highlights:

  • High intake of added sugars is implicated in numerous poor health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
  • Added sugars and solid fats in food, as well as alcoholic beverages are categorized as “discretionary calories” and should be eaten sparingly.
  • Most American women should consume no more than 100 calories of added sugars per day; most men, no more than 150 calories.
  • Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are the number one source of added sugars in the American diet. 

DALLAS, Aug. 24, 2009 — A new American Heart Association scientific statement provides specific guidance on limiting the consumption of added sugars and provides information about the relationship between excess sugar intake and metabolic abnormalities, adverse health conditions and shortfalls in essential nutrients. The statement, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, for the first time, provides the association’s recommendations on specific levels and limits on the consumption of added sugars.


September 9, 2009 in Dieting, Ingredients, nutrition policy, Scientific studies | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 04, 2009

Beer that travels

Seems like there's a lot of news about beer lately.  Perhaps it's Oktoberfest in the air.  Thank you to Steven H. Sholk for forwarding this piece from the Wall Street Journal.  In Belgium, working with a 1.7 million dollar government grant, scientists are working on improving the shelf life of beer.  A government grant for longer-lasting beer?  Does this fit under nutrition policy?

Revolutionary Ferment: Cooking Up Craft Beer That Travels

LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE, Belgium -- Sonia Collin, one of the world's leading beer chemists, has spent a life tinkering with recipes, consulting for everybody from mom-and-pop brewers to titan Anheuser-Busch InBev NV.

Now, in a lab in Belgium, a hub of craft brewing where Trappist monks have been fermenting complex beers for centuries, Ms. Collin seeks the specialty brewer's Holy Grail: great beers that keep their taste long enough that they can be shipped, stored and sold around the world without going bad.

Working with the help of a $1.7 million government grant, . . .

read more

September 4, 2009 in Food and Drink, nutrition policy, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 26, 2009

Little known oxycholesterol may pose the greatest heart disease risk

Cholesterol Press release from Eurekalert:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2009 — Health-conscious people know that high levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the so-called "bad" cholesterol) can increase the risk of heart attacks. Now scientists are reporting that another form of cholesterol called oxycholesterol — virtually unknown to the public — may be the most serious cardiovascular health threat of all. Scientists from China presented one of the first studies on the cholesterol-boosting effects of oxycholesterol here today at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. The researchers hope their findings raise public awareness about oxycholesterol, including foods with the highest levels of the substance and other foods that can combat oxycholesterol's effects.

read more

August 26, 2009 in Dieting, nutrition policy, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 21, 2009

Study Questions Need for Mandatory Folic Acid Enrichment

From Reuters.com:

Study questions need for folic acid mandate

 NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A study from Ireland suggests that mandatory folic acid fortification may be unnecessary as many people may be getting plenty of folic acid already.

There are no implications of the findings for the general public at present, Dr. Mary Rose Sweeney of Dublin City University emphasized in an email to Reuters Health. However, she said the results should be taken into account by lawmakers considering mandatory fortification of some foods with the B vitamin.

Read the Reuters article

Read the news release about the study from Eurekalert

Read the study itself (also accessible from the Eurekalert link above)

August 21, 2009 in nutrition policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 12, 2009

Race/ethnicity, family income and education associated with sugar consumption

From Eurekalert.com (Elsevier Health Sciences):

St. Louis, MO, August 1, 2009 – The intake of added sugars in the United States is excessive, estimated by the US Department of Agriculture in 1999-2002 as 17% of calories a day. Consuming foods with added sugars displaces nutrient-dense foods in the diet. Reducing or limiting intake of added sugars is an important objective in providing overall dietary guidance. In a study of nearly 30,000 Americans published in the August 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers report that race/ethnicity, family income and educational status are independently associated with intake of added sugars. Groups with low income and education are particularly vulnerable to eating diets with high added sugars.

There are differences within race/ethnicity groups that suggest that interventions aimed at reducing the intake of added sugars should be tailored to each group. Using data from adults (≥18 years) participating in the 2005 US National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Cancer Control Supplement, investigators from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), Bethesda, MD, and Information Management Services, Inc., Silver Spring, MD, analyzed responses to questions about added sugars. Both NCI and NHLBI are part of the National Institutes of Health.

Read the Eurekalert article

Go to the Abstract: Frances E. Thompson, Timothy S. McNeel, Emily C. Dowling, Douglas Midthune,  Meredith Morrissette,  Christopher A. Zeruto, Interrelationships of Added Sugars Intake, Socioeconomic Status, and Race/Ethnicity in Adults in the United States: National Health Interview Survey, 2005, J. Amer. Dietetic Assoc., Vol.109, Issue 8, Pages 1376-1383 (August 2009)

Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Laura Bantle for this and many other tips!

August 12, 2009 in articles, Food culture, nutrition policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 24, 2009

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service Turns 40

USDA News Release:


Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs Now Serve One in Every Five Americans

WASHINGTON, July 23, 2009-Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today recognized the 40th anniversary of USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the Federal agency that administers the Nation's domestic nutrition assistance programs.

"This anniversary is both a milestone and opportunity to reflect on the essential measures put in place to shape the nutritional wellbeing of children, the elderly and their families," Merrigan said. "To advance the nation's health, I look forward to working with FNS to support President Obama's commitment to end childhood hunger by 2015 and improving the nutrition and health of all Americans."

FNS administers the 15 domestic nutrition assistance programs which together comprise the Nation's food safety net. They include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp Program); National School Lunch Program (NSLP); Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program; and the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), among others.

Nutrition education and outreach efforts to the underserved are top priorities in all FNS mission areas. By providing nutrition education, low-income individuals and families are better equipped to connect dietary choices and physical activity with overall wellbeing. To increase participation, FNS conducts outreach targeting eligible populations, such as Hispanics and the elderly.

Many programs were formed before FNS was created as a separate agency in August 1969. SNAP, which remains the cornerstone of USDA's nutrition assistance, took root in its modern form in 1961, but originated during the Great Depression. The National School Lunch Program was also born in the 1930's to better nourish low-income schoolchildren. And the Needy Family Program, which has evolved into the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, served as the primary means of food assistance during that same era.

Since 1969, the SNAP/Food Stamp Program has issued over $554 billion in program benefits; NSLP has served over 169 billion meals; and $27 billion in USDA commodities have been issued in food benefits for schools and another $23 billion in food benefits for household and emergency feeding programs.

For more information about FNS's programs, visit www.fns.usda.gov/fns.

July 24, 2009 in nutrition policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 15, 2009

Book: The End of Overeating, by David A. Kessler

Kessler Here's the next book I want to read, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, by former FDA Commissioner Dr. David A. Kessler.  The Wall Street Journal did a book review and interview with Dr. Kessler:

. . . He interviews the overweight, who say that just the sight of a favorite snack food is enough to make them feel hungry, as well [as] anonymous food executives who admit that fat, salt and sugar are often the building blocks of successful food products. The book was prompted by a question that had long nagged Dr. Kessler: Why is it that Americans continue to crave such foods as potato chips and candy bars long after they feel full? "No one has ever explained what's happening to them and how they can control their eating," he writes. "That's my goal in this book."

Of course, I'll have to remove the dust jacket -- the mere sight of that piece of carrot cake is likely to make me hungry all day long.  Interestingly, the farm fresh carrots just don't have the same effect.  DMB

July 15, 2009 in Books, nutrition policy, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 01, 2009

TIME Magazine on posting restaurant calorie info

Interesting piece on Time.com (June 29, 2009) on the restaurant calorie labeling issue:

Fast Food: Would You Like 1,000 Calories with That?, by Sean Gregory

How sloppy is that triple Whopper with cheese? It has 1,250 calories, or 62.5% of the recommended 2,000-calories-per-day diet. The Fried Macaroni and Cheese from the Cheesecake Factory? Try 1,570 calories — according to health experts, you're better off eating a stick of butter. . . .

To be fare, the cheesecake probably has more nutrients than the butter, and it tastes better, so there are psychic benefits.  I don't think calories are the whole story.  But the article looks interesting anyway.


July 1, 2009 in articles, Labeling, Legislation, nutrition policy, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 10, 2008

FDA Announces Nutrition Roundtable Discussion with Stakeholders

The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has scheduled a Nutrition Roundtable Discussion on Friday, December 12, 2008 from 1:00 until 3:30 PM, at the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), Harvey W. Wiley Building, 5100 Paint Branch Parkway, College Park, Maryland.

The purpose of the Roundtable is to communicate FDA's nutrition activities and provide status updates in the following tentative list of topics: foods referred to as Functional Foods, Health Claims, Evidence Based Review Guidance, Critical Path project on Biomarkers for use in Health Claims, Front-of-Pack Labeling, the collaboration between FDA and USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion for nutrition education and outreach, "Spot the Block" for 'Tweens' children 9 to 12 years, and other issues, for example, sodium status and implementation of section 912 of FDAAA.

The Roundtable format will consist of a panel of experts led by Stephen Sundlof, D.V.M, Ph.D., CFSAN Director, with remarks from David Acheson, MD, FDA Associate Commissioner, and a question and answer session. Information regarding registration is posted online: Registration for Nutrition Roundtable Discussion with Stakeholders.

November 10, 2008 in nutrition policy | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Buy a cupcake? Not in school

From the New York Times:

Bake Sales Fall Victim to Push for Healthier Foods

. . . The old-fashioned school bake sale, once as American as apple pie, is fast becoming obsolete in California, a result of strict new state nutrition standards for public schools that regulate the types of food that can be sold to students. . . .

It seems cupcakes and cookies don't comply with the restrictions on the fat and sugar content of foods sold to students. Since I think almonds are one of the best snack choices around (and more than 35% of the calories are from fat), I get a little ruffled every time I see this kind of restriction.  It is hard, however, to defend a cupcake. -- DMB

November 10, 2008 in Children, nutrition policy, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 05, 2008

Call for papers: Science Food and Nutrition Panel at American Sociological Association

Proposals are being accepted for a panel on Science, Food and Nutrition at the 2009 American Sociological Association meeting, which takes place August 8-11 in San Francisco. 

The panel seeks to bring together scholars to consider how interactions among environments, publics, scientific practices, governance and technologies shape food and nutrition systems.

The meeting website is http://www.asanet.org/cs/root/leftnav/meetings/2009_call_for_papers

Look under the Section on Science, Knowledge & Technology, and click the Science, Food, and Nutrition session.  Submissions are accepted starting December 1, 2008. The deadline for paper submissions is Wednesday, January 14, 2009.

Contact: David Schleifer, Haas Fellow, Chemical Heritage Foundation, Phone: 215-873-8240, Fax: 215-629-5240

November 5, 2008 in nutrition policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 28, 2008

Food Companies Creating their own Nutritional Standards

Coming soon:  A new nutrition icon on the front of some food packages.  The "Smart Choices" icon is the outcome of a Keystone Center project, the Food and Nutrition Roundtable, which is "made up of consumer and health advocates, food producers and distributors, nutrition and public health experts and observers from relevant federal agencies."

From the New York Times:

Some Big Food Companies Adopt Nutrient Standards , by Andrew Martin

In an effort to reduce confusion in the grocery aisle and help consumers buy healthier foods, some of the nation’s largest food and beverage companies have agreed to accept common nutritional standards and to use the same logo on their packages to denote the products that qualify. . . .

The products that qualify must "meet science-based nutrition criteria including:

The criteria are based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other sources.

October 28, 2008 in nutrition policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Food Stamp Program And Older Americans

Information on Food Stamps and Nutrition Assistance for older Americans from the AARP Public Policy Institute:

The Food Stamp Program And Older Americans Fact Sheet, Jean C. Accius, October 2008— This AARP Public Policy Institute Fact Sheet by Jean Accius highlights recent changes in the Food Stamp Program, including expanded program access due to the reauthorization of the 2008 Farm Bill. Data are provided on the characteristics of older participants, participation rates, eligibility, benefits, and special provisions for older households. 

Related resource from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Food Stamp Provisions of the Final 2008 Farm Bill

Nutrition Assistance for Older Americans  / Fact Sheet
October 2008— This AARP Public Policy Institute Fact Sheet by Jean Accius describes the federal programs that provide nutrition assistance to older Americans and the funding sources that support these programs. Information is included on food stamps, congregate and home-delivered meals, and food programs.

Thank you to Mary Ann Archer, Warren E. Burger Library, William Mitchell College of Law, for this information!

October 28, 2008 in Legislation, nutrition policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 19, 2008

Prenatal maternal diet affects asthma risk in offspring

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggests that a mother's use of folic acid supplements during pregnancy may contribute to development of asthma in her children. This was a mouse study that sought to test the notion that changes in the mother's diet could cause "changes in DNA methylation resulting in aberrant gene transcription" resulting in development of allergic airway disease in the child.

Here's how HealthDay describes the study:

The study, by researchers at National Jewish Health and Duke University, found that pregnant mice fed diets high in supplements containing methyl-donors (folic acid, L-methionine, choline and genistein) had babies with more severe allergic airway disease than mice born to mothers that consumed diets low in methyl-containing foods.

The mice born to mothers fed high methyl-donor diets had greater asthma severity, more airway hyperactivity, more allergic inflammation in the airways, higher levels of IgE in their blood, and their immune system T-cells were more likely to be the type associated with allergy. Male offspring also transmitted a higher predisposition to allergy airway disease to their pups.

The current issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation also includes an editorial, Prenatal maternal diet affects asthma risk in offspring, by Rachel L. Miller:

. . .One cannot ignore the observation that the increase in asthma prevalence over recent decades approximately coincides with worldwide campaigns that recommend periconceptional dietary folate supplementation. From a public health perspective, the adverse nonrespiratory health consequences of insufficient prenatal folate consumption are legitimate concerns. But an even broader public health issue has surfaced. If confirmed, prenatal exposures may influence the development of asthma not only for our children, but for their children as well.

Here is the study: In utero supplementation with methyl donors enhances allergic airway disease in mice, by John W. Hollingsworth, Shuichiro Maruoka, Kathy Boon, Stavros Garantziotis, Zhuowei Li, John Tomfohr, Nathaniel Bailey, Erin N. Potts, Gregory Whitehead, David M. Brass and David A. Schwartz.

In 1996, the FDA required folate fortification of many flours and flour products in order to prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects:

In keeping with the recommendations of PHS and the FDA Food Advisory Committee called to study these issues, the Food and Drug Administration is requiring that folic acid be added to specific flour, breads and other grains. These foods were chosen for fortification with folate because they are staple products for most of the U.S. population, and because they have a long history of being successful vehicles for improving nutrition to reduce the risk of classic nutrient deficiency diseases.

These fortified foods include most enriched breads, flours, corn meals, rice, noodles, macaroni and other grain products.

[For what it's worth, I refused to take folic acid supplements, but I made sure I got the full RDA by eating fortified cereal while I was pregnant.  My kids both had childhood asthma (but then, I have asthma too).]  DMB

September 19, 2008 in Children, Ingredients, nutrition policy, Scientific studies, supplements | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack