Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
The Rudd Center Health Digest

March 2010

Hear the Latest on Soda Taxes from the Rudd Center


ReminderWebinar on soft drink taxes, Tuesday, March 9, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST. Register now.

New Food Policy and Obesity Legislation Database

Want to know what the government is doing about school nutrition programs or menu labeling? The Rudd Center has developed a new tool that allows users to find the most recent information on food policy and obesity legislation. The Legislative Updates page features a comprehensive search function, a list of bills that have been acted upon in the last day and week, contact information for state and federal legislators, and educational materials on the legislative process.

Bills are monitored closely and the Rudd Center database is updated regularly. The Legislative Updates page is located in the Public Policy and Government section of the Rudd Center Web site – a button on the left navigation bar on the home page will take you directly to this new feature.

Explore the Legislative Updates page and find out how your state is addressing obesity.

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Increased personal responsibility certainly will play a role in efforts to combat obesity, but collective action to support enhanced personal responsibility is essential, according to Rudd Center researchers and co-authors in "Personal Responsibility and Obesity: A Constructive Approach to a Controversial Issue," published in the March issue of Health Affairs. Government at all levels should use policy and regulation to help make the healthy choice the easy choice to prevent obesity and support individuals' efforts to lead healthy lives. Co-authors include Rogan Kersh, PhD, New York University; David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD, Harvard Medical School; Robert C. Post, PhD, Yale Law School; Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center; Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center; and Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH, Harvard School of Public Health.

Another recent Rudd Center study shows that supermarket aisles are enticing young eyeballs with more familiar characters, celebrities, toys, and movie giveaways on food packaging than ever. Published in Public Health Nutrition, “Marketing Foods to Children and Adolescents: Licensed Characters and Other Promotions on Packaged Foods in the Supermarket,” the study shows a significant increase in the use of youth-oriented cross-promotions on food packaging in the supermarket. Cross-promotions targeted at children and teens increased by 78% from 2006 to 2008, the analysis finds, and only 18% of products examined met accepted nutrition standards for foods sold to youth. Read more about the study. The article is co-authored by the Rudd Center’s Jennifer L. Harris, PhD, MBA, Director of Marketing Initiatives; Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD, Deputy Director; and Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Director.

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

March 24, 12:30 pm
Jerome D. Williams, PhD
F. J. Heyne Centennial Professor, Department of Advertising/Center for African and African American Studies, University of Texas at Austin
Food and Beverage Target Marketing Based on Race and Ethnicity and Advertising Codes of Ethics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

March 31, 12:30 pm
Mark Bittman
Author, New York Times Columnist, Television Host
Future of Food
*Location – Peabody Museum, 170 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, Connecticut, 3rd Floor, Auditorium. RSVP by March 24 to*

April 7, 12:30 pm
Susan T. Mayne, PhD
Professor of Epidemiology and Division Head, Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health; Associate Director, Yale Cancer Center
Using Biomarkers to Improve the Quality of Research on Nutrition and Health

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held at the Rudd Center, located at 309 Edwards Street in New Haven, Connecticut, 06511. The seminars are free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The full schedule for our Spring Seminar Series is available online and for download as a PDF document.

You may sign up to receive weekly E-mail updates from the Rudd Center detailing upcoming seminars and schedule changes.

Measure Your School District’s Wellness Policy


School administrators and public health professionals at the local and state levels have a new weapon in their arsenal. The Rudd Center’s WellSAT (Wellness School Assessment Tool) is an online evaluation of school wellness policies that address nutrition education and promotion, physical activity/physical education, school meals, and competitive foods. It is the first instrument of its kind, providing a quantitative assessment that can be used to track progress over time.

The tool contains 50 items, each with examples of language from real school wellness policies to assist with scoring. Users are given a scorecard upon completion that links them to resources to improve specific parts of their school wellness policies. They receive scores in two domains —comprehensiveness and strength. Users scoring multiple policies can download their data for comparison across districts or within the same district over time.

Initiatives Around Town on the Rudd Center Web Site

Initiatives Around Town, a new Web site feature, focuses on organizations and events at Yale University, in New Haven, and throughout Connecticut engaged in food policy, obesity, hunger, schools, and agriculture. The Developing Food Policy Conference at the Yale Law School and Taste of the Nation – New Haven are two exciting opportunities to learn more about what the Rudd Center faculty and staff are working on and how to become involved in food issues.

Rudd Center Spotlight: Mark Bittman

BittmanThe Rudd Center is pleased to host Mark Bittman on March 31 at the Peabody Museum for the Spring Seminar Series. RSVP to for the event – Future of Food – by March 24.

Mark Bittman is one of America’s most celebrated food writers. In his New York Times weekly column, The Minimalist, he introduces dishes from all corners of the globe. Whether the recipe is Galician octopus or potato salad, Bittman’s style, skill, and savoir-faire inspire even the most reluctant cook.

On his New York Times blog, Bitten, Bittman shares recipes, cooking techniques, and provides perspective on a broad range of food issues. In a recent article, “Soda: A Sin We Sip Instead of Smoke?,” Bittman discussed the sugar-sweetened beverage tax and the obesity epidemic in America. Bittman’s insightful views are not limited to the pages of the New York Times. Bittman has penned several best-selling cookbooks, including James Beard Award and Julia Child Cookbook Award winner, How to Cook Everything. He has also enjoyed a successful foray into television as the host of the popular PBS series, “Bittman Takes on America’s Chefs.”

In his newest book, Food Matters, A Guide to Conscientious Eating, Bittman explores the environmental and health challenges associated with the current global food system. He invites readers to become “lessmeatarians” and to make lifestyle choices that he says will help them lose weight, reduce the risk of many diseases, stop global warming, and save money. Harnessing his 30-plus years of musings on all things food, and to borrow from his Food Matters slogan, Bittman is “changing the way America eats.”

This seminar will take place at 12:30 pm at the Peabody Museum, 170 Whitney Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut, in the 3rd Floor Auditorium.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

James E. Tierney, JD
Director, National State Attorneys General Program, Columbia Law School; Former Attorney General of Maine

Our collection of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U, under the Yale University Health & Medicine — Nutrition & Obesity section, or can be subscribed to through an RSS Feed that will automatically update whenever new content is released. Podcasts can be listened to on a computer or downloaded to a music player.

Front Burner News

Is Soda the New Tobacco?

In their critics’ eyes, producers of sugar-sweetened drinks are acting a lot like the tobacco industry of old: marketing heavily to children, claiming their products are healthy or benign, and lobbying to prevent change. Read more.

Colorado Governor Signs Bills to Tax Candy, Soda

Gov. Bill Ritter said he had no choice when he signed a package of bills taxing candy and soda to help close a $1.5 billion shortfall in next year's $18 billion budget. The new laws are expected to raise about $148 million over the next two years. Read more.

Child Obesity Risks Death at Early Age


The heaviest children are more than twice as likely as the slimmest to die before age 55 from illness or a self-inflicted injury, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Youngsters with pre-diabetes are at almost double the risk of dying before 55, and those with high blood pressure are at some increased risk. Read more.

FDA Weighs Updates to Standard Serving Sizes

Seeking a new weapon in the fight against obesity, the FDA wants to encourage manufacturers to post vital nutritional information, including calorie counts, on the front of food packages. The FDA is now looking at bringing into line serving sizes with how Americans really eat. Read more.

Effects of Family Meals, Sleeping, and Screen Time on Obesity in Preschoolers


Preschool children exposed to three household routines – regularly eating family meals, getting adequate sleep, and limiting screen-viewing time – had a roughly 40% lower prevalence of obesity than those exposed to none of these routines. The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, involved a cross-sectional analysis of 8,550 4-year-old U.S. children. Read more.

Beverage Industry Douses Tax on Soft Drinks

Employing a broad-based lobbying effort, the soft drink industry has smothered a plan to tax sugared beverages – a plan advocates said would have reduced obesity and helped finance healthcare reform. Just months ago, public health advocates thought the tax would be a natural for congressional Democrats looking for revenue to fund expanded health insurance coverage. Read more.

Obese Passengers and Airlines on Collision Course

As Americans get larger and airplane space comes at a greater premium, it is not difficult to see where friction ensues. The issue was brought to light again when movie director Kevin Smith was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight from Oakland to Burbank, California for failing to fit comfortably into a seat. Read more.


The Surgeon General Gets it Right

The Surgeon General's Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation 2010 got surprisingly little press coverage. If the plan had called for a soda tax or legislation requiring restaurants to post calorie counts or big expensive government programs to cure obesity, plenty of ink would have been devoted to her report, according to a Washington Post blog. Read more.

Is Coke's Fizz Going Flat?

Like a tobacco company, Coca-Cola primarily sells one product – in its case, sugar water – that is linked to a number of diseases. It is under fire all over the world for its environmental, human rights, and health record, wrote Michael F. Jacobson, PhD, Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest. Read more.


Taiwan to Ban Ads to Children

Taiwan, with a childhood overweight rate of 25-30%, is drafting a bill to ban junk food advertisements as well as images of smoking in children’s television programs. The bill will also introduce a tax on foods deemed unhealthy, including sugary drinks. Read more.

Junk Food Images Rampant in Movies

According to a new study published in Pediatrics, 69% of movies studied featured a food, beverage, or retail establishment. Candy and salty snacks were the most common, and sugary soft drinks made up 75% of the beverages. Researchers caution that this type of marketing is much more subliminal than television ads. Read more.