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

April 2013

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Legal Developments to Protect Obese Individuals from Discrimination

Obese individuals have reported discrimination in employment based on their weight, yet they have little legal recourse. Currently it is not illegal to discriminate against people based on their weight except in a limited number of jurisdictions.

Victims of weight discrimination have been unsuccessful in seeking legal justice through the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (collectively, the ADA), which protect against discrimination based on mental or physical disabilities in various settings, including the workplace. However, the 2008 amendment to the ADA, implemented in 2009, will have a positive impact on weight-based discrimination, according to researchers from the Rudd Center in a paper published in the journal Obesity.

The amendment to the ADA, known as the ADA Amendments Act, expands the definition of what constitutes a disability and incorporates a broad view of the ADA’s coverage. Due to the amendment, courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can now protect severely obese people from discrimination based on actual or perceived disability in the employment context. Despite this positive development, the ADA Amendments Act does not similarly protect overweight or moderately obese people in the disability context. Further, people who suffer from weight-based discrimination outside the disability context remain unprotected.

Previous research published in the journal Obesity showed that American adults are in favor of legislation to prohibit weight discrimination, particularly in the workplace. The authors recommend the implementation of a “Weight Discrimination in Employment Act” to adequately address pervasive and damaging discrimination toward obese individuals in the workplace.

The paper is co-authored by the Rudd Center’s Director of Legal Initiatives, Jennifer Pomeranz, JD, MPH, and Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives.

Dan Harris from ABC News Presents at the
Rudd Center Seminar Series

HarrisDan Harris, ABC News Anchor and Correspondent, presented his ideas on meditation, mindfulness, and eating at the Rudd Center’s Seminar Series. The seminar was co-sponsored by the Yale Poynter Fellowship in Journalism. Notes from Harris' presentation and a podcast recorded with Kelly Brownell, PhD, former Rudd Center Director, are available.

Most Kids’ Meals Don’t Meet CSPI’s Nutrition Criteria

Almost all kids’ meals (97 percent of 3,498 possible combinations) at America’s top chain restaurants fail to meet the nutrition standards of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and 91 percent do not meet the standards of the restaurant industry’s Kids LiveWell program, according to a report by CSPI.

Each of Subway’s kids’ meals meet CSPI’s and the industry’s criteria, and Subway is the only chain that does not offer sugary drinks in kids’ meals.

Little progress has been made since CSPI’s last review in 2008, when 99 percent of kids’ meal combinations did not meet their criteria.

CSPI recommends that restaurant chains participate in the Kids LiveWell program and update their kids' meals to meet the program's standards, including removing sugary drinks from kids' menus, and creating fruit and vegetable sides and offering them as the default option.

Follow the Rudd Center on Pinterest


The Rudd Center is now on Pinterest and is pinning photos and information about food marketing to children, sugary drinks, weight bias and discrimination, school food, and other obesity-related issues. Follow us!

Health Groups Urge Supermarkets and Pharmacies to Promote Alternatives to Sugary Drinks

The Rudd Center, along with advocacy groups and health departments, co-signed a letter to chief executive officers of top supermarket chains and pharmacies urging them to increase their marketing of no- and low-calorie alternatives to soda and other sugary drinks.

Spearheaded by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the letter discussed the opportunity retailers’ have to promote health by encouraging their customers to switch from high-calorie to no- and low-calorie drinks. With one-third of children and two-thirds of adults overweight or obese, and a growing amount of research linking sugary drink consumption with weight gain and diet-related diseases, officials asked retailers to exercise their corporate social responsibility.

The co-signers' suggestions included limiting sugary drinks in check-out aisles, posting signs in the soft drink aisle to encourage people to switch to no- or low-calorie drinks, featuring primarily no- and low-sugar soft drinks at aisle end caps and in select feature and/or holiday displays, giving greater prominence to lower-calorie drinks in advertising, and adjusting prices to encourage the purchase of no- and low-calorie drinks.

“Our hope is that supermarkets and pharmacies seize this as a win-win opportunity that improves their customers’ health and simply shifts chains’ profits from disease-promoting drinks to healthier drinks,” wrote the co-signers.

Patients' Bias against Obese Physicians

Health providers may be vulnerable to weight bias from their patients if they are perceived to be overweight or obese, according to a recent Rudd Center study in the International Journal of Obesity. The study shows the potential for patient weight biases to affect their levels of trust, adherence to medical advice, and desire to switch doctors and points to a clear need for education and stigma reduction targeting patients and the general public, said Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives, in her blog on Medscape.

Howard County Students Urge Implementation of Stronger Wellness Polices

Concerned parents, citizens, and students of Howard County, Maryland spoke out about the Howard County Public School System's health and wellness policy during a recent Board of Education meeting. In March the school system’s superintendent proposed changes to the health and wellness policy, but many felt the changes were not strong enough.

Those who spoke out were concerned that the changes would not do enough to encourage healthy lifestyles among students. Five high school students said more needed to be done to decrease unhealthy food options and increase physical activity.

Marie Pines of Marriotts Ridge High School said the lack of healthy food available after school is a problem. She suggested that schools make simple changes such as offering whole-wheat bagels rather than regular bagels or low-fat popcorn instead of movie theater popcorn. Amelia Manastreli of Mt. Hebron High School had similar concerns and questioned whether Booster Clubs had students’ best interest in mind when selling candy, chips, fries, and pizza during after-school activities. Manastreli assured the Board of Education that if Booster Clubs offered healthy food, the students would eat it.

Marcos Miranda, a senior at Reservoir High School, addressed the need for uniformity among high school vending machines so that they all provide healthy options and not just junk food, soda, and Gatorade.

Centennial High School student, Jordan Baruch, addressed physical activity and suggested reducing the required 75 hours of volunteer service to 45 hours and allotting the remaining time to physical activity. Students would then learn the importance of both volunteering and participating in physical activity.

Representing People Acting Together in Howard (PATH), an interfaith network of active communities in the County and an affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), Babette Newman of Wilde Lake High School closed the student testimony by saying that the Howard County Public School System was in desperate need of reform, including prioritizing the health of its students.

The Rudd Center evaluated the County's wellness policy for The Horizon Foundation (a local health foundation) and found that if the superintendent's proposed changes were adopted, the school system's policy would rank as only average compared to others across the country.

The board is expected to vote on the policy on May 9.

Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Support Academic Achievement

The Learning Connection: What You Need to Know to Ensure Your Kids Are Healthy and Ready to Learn, a report released by Action for Healthy Kids, demonstrates that physical activity supports academic achievement, well-nourished children learn better, and healthier practices in schools can increase school revenue. The report helps parents, educators, school administrators, and school volunteers create healthier school environments so the children in their lives are better positioned to learn.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Glenn E. Schneider, MPH; Nikki Highsmith Vernick, MPA
Chief Program Officer; President and Chief Executive Officer; The Horizon Foundation
Howard County Unsweetened 

Dan Harris
Anchor and Correspondent, ABC News
Mindfulness, Happiness, and Eating

The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes.

Front Burner News

Pregnant Women Experience Fat-Shaming

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian has been criticized in tabloids for her pregnancy weight gain. “It’s ridiculous, unfortunate, and potentially harmful, that women in our society are vulnerable to public shame if their pregnant bodies don’t look thin enough,” said Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives. Read more.

TV Has Greatest Effect on Childhood Obesity


TV is worse than computers, television, smartphones, and tablets when it comes to increasing the risk of childhood obesity, according to a study in Pediatrics. Read more.

Samoa Air Charges Passengers Based on Weight

Samoa Air recently announced that it will base airfares on people's weight. Experts question whether the policy fosters discrimination against overweight and obese individuals. Read more.

Strict School Lunch Standards Lead to Healthier Students

Schools with higher nutrition standards for free and reduced-price lunches have lower obesity rates than those that simply follow the USDA standards, according to research in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Read more.

Vilsack Promises to Protect Nutrition Programs

Tom Vilsack, head of the USDA, promised to protect the country's nutrition programs from critics who are campaigning to reduce funding and make drastic changes to the measures that help millions of Americans. Read more.

Hershey's Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labeling

The Hershey Company will provide front-of-pack nutrition labeling so consumers are able to make healthier choices. Read more.


Beverage Companies Use “Philanthro-Marketing” Techniques

Beverage companies are using “philanthro-marketing” initiatives, such as My Coke Rewards and Pepsi Refresh, to protect their images and profits and fend off policies that aim to limit soda consumption, according to author Anna Lappé. Read more.

Classrooms Still Use Candy as Rewards

Nearly 70 percent of American classrooms use candy to teach and reward children, according to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Lunch Tray provides suggestions on what parents and individuals can do to “unjunk” classrooms. Read more.

Latino Youth may be Unfairly Targeted as Sugary Drink Study Subjects

There is growing controversy over whether Latino children are being unfairly targeted as study subjects for obesity and its relationship to sugary drinks, even though obesity among Latino children is a serious national health problem, and Latino youth are key targets for sugary drink marketing, according to an article on The Huffington PostRead more.

Junk Food Marketing Undermines Parents

When it comes to junk food, marketers are undermining well-intentioned parents who know the challenge of going up against characters like SpongeBob and Dora, according to Glenn Braunstein, MD, Vice President of Clinical Innovation at Cedars-Sinai. Read more.

Corporations Cutting Calories

In 2010, sixteen food and drink makers formed the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, pledging to cut one trillion calories from the products they sell in U.S. stores and vending machines by 2012, and 1.5 trillion calories by 2015. Some researchers applaud the initiative while others are skeptical, according to Carl Bialik, of The Wall Street Journal. Read more.


Kool-Aid Launches New Look for Mascot

In an effort to refresh its image and promote a new liquid mix, Kool-Aid has unveiled a new look for its mascot. The “Kool-Aid Man” will take on the personality of a celebrity trying to show he is just a normal guy. Read more.

Energy Drink Labeling and Marketing Practices Vary

Energy drink labeling and marketing practices vary widely across the different brands, which results in a lack of transparency for consumers, according to a survey of energy drinks commissioned by several Congresspeople. Read more.

Brazil Fines McDonald's for Marketing to Children

Brazil has fined McDonald's $1.6 million for targeting children with its advertising and toys. Read more.