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

April 2012

“Pink Slime” Controversy

Pink slime” has received much attention recently from consumers, public health advocates, and the media. The low-cost filler, also known as lean finely textured beef (LFTB), has been used in ground beef products for years. It is made by mixing beef scraps and connective tissue sprayed with ammonia to kill bacteria created through the industrial production of livestock.

Public outrage ensued when the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that they planned to purchase 7 million pounds of LFTB for school lunches. A petition to remove the product from school lunches drew hundreds of thousands of signatures and sparked media backlash. Fast food outlets and grocery stores also sell beef containing LFTB.

Knowledge of this practice is not new. The New York Times published a story about it in 2009 and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has spoken out about the issue. Earlier this year, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King announced that they would no longer use beef containing LFTB.

It poses no health risk and does not need to be labeled because it does not constitute an ingredient separate from beef, according to the USDA. The safety of other forms of processed meat has been questioned.

The USDA announced that the National School Lunch Program will let schools decide whether or not to buy ground beef that contains the filler, resulting in many schools rejecting it for next year’s menus. National supermarket operators, such as Supervalu, Food Lion, and Safeway, have stopped purchasing ground beef that contains LFTB. Suppliers have been affected by consumer and media attention: AFA Foods filed for bankruptcy and Beef Products, Inc., the largest producer, temporarily suspended operations at three of its four plants.

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Effectiveness of Front-of-Package Food Labeling Systems

The British Multiple Traffic Light (MTL) front-of-package labeling system, in which red, yellow, and green symbols are used to show which foods might be eaten sparingly, in moderation, or freely, has most consistently helped consumers identify healthier products, according to a review article on front-of-package labeling systems published in Public Health Nutrition.

The authors suggested that front-of-package labels should convey calories per serving, daily caloric requirements, and specific nutrient levels. Highlighted nutrients should be associated with the most prevalent health problems in the United States and labels should be prominent in size and displayed on the top-right of the package.

The authors reviewed studies published between January 2004 and February 2011 that examined consumer preferences, understanding, and use of different labeling systems. The studies also looked at label impact on purchasing patterns and product reformulation by industry.

The paper was coauthored by the Rudd Center’s Christina Roberto, MS, MPhil, MPhil, Yale University doctoral student in Clinical Psychology and Epidemiology; Marie Bragg, MS, MPhil, Yale University doctoral student in Clinical Psychology; Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Deputy Director; and Kelly Brownell, PhD, Director; and Kristy Hawley, MPH, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and Peggy Liu, Duke University doctoral student in Business.

Irresponsible Messages from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine?


The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) recently launched a commercial promoting a new "Sit Next to a Vegan" option that they proposed to American Airlines. The proposal gives passengers an option to reserve the seat next to them for a vegan (who is presumed to be thinner), so that they don't have to sit next to an obese passenger.

These tactics and messages are highly stigmatizing to individuals who are overweight or obese, according to a recent blog on Medscape by Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives. If PCRM is truly interested in promoting veganism, public health, or reducing obesity, they should use messages that support and empower obese persons to become healthier rather than instilling shame and stigma towards them. When individuals feel blamed, stigmatized, or shamed about their weight, they are more likely to engage in unhealthy eating behaviors and avoidance of physical activity, both of which can reinforce weight gain and impair weight loss efforts.

The blog is the latest in a series about weight bias by Dr. Puhl on Medscape, a part of WebMD Health Professional Network (free online registration required).

Link Between Policies to Prevent Hunger and Childhood Obesity

Food insecurity and obesity have often been viewed as separate public health problems but recent research indicates that people with unreliable access to food are also more likely to be obese. However, many interventions designed to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic also can address hunger, according to a brief recently released by the Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Some policies outlined in "Making the Connection: Linking Policies that Prevent Hunger and Childhood Obesity" include establishing healthy food financing initiatives to increase access to nutritious foods; supporting farm-to-institution and farm-to-school and school garden programs; increasing free- and reduced-price school meals; and partnering with the private sector to increase the value of federal nutrition assistance benefits for healthful foods.

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

April 18, 12:30 pm
Steven L. Gortmaker, PhD
Professor of the Practice of Health Sociology; Department of Society, Human Development and Health; Harvard School of Public Health
The Best Value for Money: Interventions to Reduce Obesity by Changing Sugar-Sweetened Beverage and Water Access and Intake

May 2, 12:30 pm
Jean Kilbourne
Senior Scholar, Wellesley Centers for Women
Falling in Love with Food: Connection and Disconnection in Food Advertising
*Location – Peabody Museum, 170 Whitney Avenue, 3rd Floor, Auditorium*

May 16, 12:30 pm
Peter Kaminsky
Culinary Intelligence: The Art of Eating Healthy (and Really Well)

May 31, 1:30 pm
William H. Dietz, MD, PhD
Director; Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Adventures in Marketing Food to Children

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held at the Rudd Center. The seminars are free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The full schedule for the Spring Seminar Series is available online and for download.

Rudd Center Spotlight: Jean Kilbourne

KilbourneJean Kilbourne, author, lecturer, and filmmaker who is internationally recognized for her work on the image of women in advertising and her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising, will present Falling in Love with Food: Connection and Disconnection in Food Advertising on May 2 during the Rudd Center’s Spring Seminar Series.

Ms. Kilbourne’s work links the power of images in the media with public health problems such as eating disorders, violence against women, and addiction. Her films, lectures, and television appearances have been seen by millions of people throughout the world.

Her book, Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel, won the Distinguished Publication Award from the Association for Women in Psychology. She is also known for her book So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids.

She has twice received the Lecturer of the Year award from the National Association for Campus Activities and was named one of the three most popular speakers on college campuses by The New York Times Magazine.

Her prize-winning films based on her lectures include Killing Us Softly, Spin the Bottle, and Slim Hopes. She is a frequent guest on radio and television programs, including The Today Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

She has served as an advisor to the U.S. Surgeon General and has testified for the U.S. Congress. She holds an honorary position as Senior Scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

According to Susan Faludi, American feminist, journalist, and author, “Jean Kilbourne’s work is pioneering and crucial to the dialogue of one of the most underexplored, yet most powerful, realms of American culture — advertising. We owe her a great debt.”

Best and Worst Marketing Practices

Cheerios’ Stories

Some boxes of Original Cheerios now include popular children’s books. The cereal contains one gram of sugar and three grams of fiber per serving, making it healthier than other Cheerios varieties that have been marketed to children, including Honey Nut Cheerios and Fruity Cheerios. Read more.

Peeps Magical Moments Tour

Peeps promoted its candies with a tour through the South and Midwest. During the tour its peepster "chick" car and mascot stopped at schools, hospitals, and local community events to give away products and coupons. Read more.

Employment Opportunity at the Rudd Center

Research Associate
Design, establish, and conduct original independent studies examining weight bias in the media, the presence of weight bias in school settings and health care, the impact of weight stigma on health, and interventions to reduce weight bias in diverse settings. Work closely with and report to the Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Curt Ellis
Filmmaker; Co-Founder and Executive Director, FoodCorps

Matt Longjohn, MD, MPH
Senior Director, Chronic Disease Prevention Programs, YMCA of the USA

Matthew Prescott
Director of Food Policy, The Humane Society of the United States

Timothy D. Lytton, JD
Albert and Angela Farone Distinguished Professor of Law, Albany Law School

Robert H. Lustig, MD
Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Endocrinology, University of California, San Francisco

The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U and through an RSS feed.

Front Burner News

Happy Meal Lawsuit Dismissed


A San Francisco judge dismissed a lawsuit against McDonald's over its marketing of Happy Meals, according to court documents. McDonald's was accused of unfairly using toys to lure children into its restaurants. The proposed class-action lawsuit sought to stop the company from using free toys to promote its Happy Meals in California. Read more.

Hospital Discriminates Against Overweight Job Applicants

A hospital in Victoria, Texas, has instituted a hiring policy that bans job applicants from employment for being overweight. Read more.

Reduce Obesity to Reduce Health Care Costs

Reducing obesity rates by 5 percent could lead to more than $29 billion in health care savings over five years, according to a report by Trust for America’s Health. Read more.

Sugar Producers Accuse Corn Industry of False Advertising

Sugar producers are accusing the corn industry of false advertising in a campaign that says that high-fructose corn syrup is "nutritionally the same as table sugar" and claims "your body can't tell the difference." Read more.

Red Meat and Calories

Higher intakes of red meat were associated with a greater calorie intake and a lower intake of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, according to research by the Harvard School of Public Health. Read more.

Companies in the United Kingdom Commit to Cut Calories

Seventeen companies in the United Kingdom, including Tesco, Coca-Cola, and Asda, have pledged to cut portions and reformulate products as part the government’s drive to curb obesity. Read more.


Support for Sugary Drink Tax in California

Nearly 3 out of 5 California voters would support a tax on sugary drinks to fight childhood obesity, according to The Field Poll. Read more.

Cola Companies Behave like Tobacco Companies

Soft drink companies have been exhibiting characteristics similar to tobacco companies in the United States by increasing prices, promoting alternatives, and fighting legislation. Read more.

Critiquing Sugary Foods

A Tennessee lawmaker recently proposed a bill that would bar federal dollars from being used to publicly criticize food approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including sugary foods. Read more.

Sugary Drinks Linked to Heart Disease

Men who drink one 12-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage a day have a 19 percent greater risk for heart disease than those who drink the least, according to research published in Circulation. Read more.

Soda Tax Fails as Lobbyists Spend Millions

Advocates of a soda tax face well-funded lobbying campaigns from soda makers opposed to such efforts. Read more.

PepsiCo Imposes an Employee Sin Tax

PepsiCo charges its employees $50 a month if they smoke or have obesity-related medical problems such as diabetes, hypertension, and high blood pressure as part of a wellness program initiated several years ago. Read more.


Body Criticism Is Toxic

Several media outlets have criticized Jennifer Lawrence, actress in The Hunger Games, for being too heavy. “These kinds of messages are toxic,” said Kelly Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director. “They pressure people, especially girls, to be at odds with their bodies and to fight against whatever natural weight they might have." Read more.

Why Is Weight Prejudice Still Accepted?

We live in an environment that promotes obesity through commercials, fast food, and large portions in restaurants, yet weight prejudice is still accepted in our society. Read more.

Understanding Calories

Regulating weight is not as simple as calculating calories and involves many different factors. Read more.

Support Needed for Healthy Students

The USDA’s new school meal standards will increase access to fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; limit trans fats and salt; and control portion sizes. However, serving healthy food does not automatically lead to healthier students. Community and school-wide support is needed. Read more.

Confronting Weight Biases

Obese people are often bullied and treated with disrespect. We need to confront our own biases and demand better treatment. Read more.


Health Ads on Smartphones


As more young people use their smartphones to access health information, advertisers may change the way they craft their messages. Read more.

The Right to Sell Children Junk Food

The First Amendment is being used to safeguard the “right” of powerful corporations to market junk food to children. Read more.

Breakfast Cereals Face Advertising Ban in Ireland

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland is considering banning three-quarters of breakfast cereals from advertising on children’s television programs, according to the Irish Breakfast Cereal Association. Read more.

Kellogg Ordered to Revise Misleading Sugar Claims

The UK’s Advertising Standards Agency has told Kellogg to revise claims on its Coco Pops website that suggested sugar was unconnected to obesity, disease development, and behavioural problems in children. Read more.

Food Company Characters Get Makeovers

Food companies are giving their branded characters a healthier look and attitude to keep up with the attention on nutrition, diet, and exercise. Read more.