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

August 2014

Call for Stronger Nutrition Labels

Press Conference

Rudd Center’s Director, Marlene Schwartz, PhD, recently participated in a press conference with Senator Richard Blumenthal, Representative Rosa DeLauro, and Mike Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, to urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to strengthen its proposed Nutrition Facts label regulations.

The proposed labeling regulations would make it easier for consumers to make healthier choices by updating the label to highlight key parts, such as calories and serving sizes.  The proposed label would also update serving sizes to mathc how much people really eat and would require information about the amount of added sugars in a food products.

During the press conference, the lawmakers called on the FDA to establish a standardized front-of-package labeling syste and to commit to redesigning the nutrition label.  They also urged the FDA to establish a daily value for added sugars; establish definitions for terms such as "whole wheat," "natural," and "health"; and require the disclosures of the total amount of caffeine and of artificial colors and sweeteners of the front of the package.

Georgia's Controversial PSA on Childhood Obesity 

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta launched a controversial Public Service Announcement last September called "Rewind The Future" which has recently gone viral. The video takes place in 2030 and features a man having flashbacks of all of his unhealthy eating habits while lying lifelessly on an operating table during a heart attack.

The video aims to motivate parents to teach their kids about healthy habits before it is too late. However, Rudd Center’s Deputy Director, Rebecca Puhl, PhD, asserts that more careful consideration needs to be given to the kinds of public health messages that are disseminated, so that children and families who are struggling with obesity can be supported in their efforts to become healthier, rather than shamed and stigmatized.

"In our research examining public reactions to media campaigns about obesity, we found that tactics used by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta have less impact than campaigns that instead empower and support people to make improvements in their health behaviors," asserts Puhl.

Congresswoman DeLauro Proposes Federal Soda Tax 

SugarCongresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has introduced the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act of 2014 (SWEET Act), a bill to address obesity and diabetes by discouraging the excessive consumption of sugary beverages. 

The SWEET Act would amend the I.R.S. code to impose a one-cent tax on manufacturers for every teaspoon of added sugar in beverages.

The revenue from the tax would go toward initiatives designed to reduce the human and economic costs associated with health conditions related to sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.

"Scientific research shows a very clear relationship between the consumption of sugary drinks and obesity, diabetes, and other chronic health problems," said Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center’s Director. "Given the pervasive marketing of sugary drinks in the U.S. today, we need to encourage families to make healthy choices. A soda tax has the potential to do just that."

Sugar consumption-related diseases are responsible for an estimated $190 billion in annual health care costs, over 20 percent of which is paid by American taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid, DeLauro said.  

Call for Ban on Ronald McDonald in Schools  

The Rudd Center, along with advocacy groups and health organizations, co-signed a letter to McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson asking him to stand by his word and stop marketing to children in schools using the company mascot, Ronald McDonald.

Spearheaded by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the letter points out that Ronald McDonald is often seen in schools despite CEO Thompson’s assertion during the 2014 Annual Shareholder Meeting that the company does not put Ronald in schools.

The co-signers want Mr. Thompson to clarify the company policy regarding Ronald McDonald’s appearance in schools, and to clarify whether this policy applies to all schools. They also want McDonald’s to explain why, if the company does not put the mascot in schools, several local McDonald’s locations continue to advertise his availability for in-school appearances.  

Manufactures use Health Halo Effect to Market Sugary Drinks

Flavored Waters

While soda sales have declined in recent years, sales of other sugary drinks such as energy, sports, tea and fruit drinks have increased, according to a new study commissioned by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy and conducted by the University of California at Berkeley, Atkins Center for Weight and Health. Researchers attribute the increase in sales to misleading claims that the beverages are "healthy" and/or "performance-enhancing."

Using a marketing analysis conducted by the Rudd Center, researchers looked at twenty-one sugary drinks that are most commonly marketed and available to youth. They examined the nutritional content of the beverages and compared marketing claims with the products’ real effects.

Researchers found that manufacturers create a "health halo" effect on the beverages. The researchers assert that these beverages are increasingly purchased by consumers looking for "healthier" alternatives to soda. These claims are not only false but the beverages may in fact be harming children’s health.

"Despite the positive connotation surrounding energy and sports drinks, these products are essentially sodas without the carbonation," says lead author Patricia Crawford, DrPH, RD. "Rather than promote health as claimed in advertising, these drinks are putting our children’s health at risk." 

Issue Brief Released on Use of Toys to Market Unhealthy Kids’ Meals

Healthy Eating Research, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recently released an issue brief exploring the marketing of kids’ meals using toys. The document describes the issue and offers a number of policy solutions.

In 2009, fast food restaurants sold more than 1 billion meals with toys to children ages 12 and under. Offering toys with kids’ meals that have little nutritive value, is one of the most pervasive forms of food marketing aimed at children.

This practice not only influences kids’ food preferences, but tying toys to unhealthy foods can set kids up for a lifetime of poor habits. However, there is evidence that shows toys can also encourage children to choose healthier options as well.

Among the recommendations, Healthy Eating Research urged restaurants to only use toys to promote those children’s meals that meet strong, evidence-based nutrition standards; to provide better nutrition labeling for children’s menus; and to continue to work toward improving the nutritional quality of all children’s meals.  

Upcoming Events


Rudd Center’s Director to Present at Food+Health 2014 Conference 

Rudd Center’s Director, Marlene Schwartz, PhD, will speak at the Food+Health 2014 Conference, an event that will feature presentations and conversations on food policy, healthcare and nutritional medicine in the 21st century, the challenges of diet and lifestyle change, and the environmental impact of food production.

Hosted by Engine 2 and Forks Over Knives, the Food+Health 2014 Conference will feature other pioneers in food policy including John Mackey, Co-CEO and Founder of Whole Foods Market; Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., Surgeon, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease; Rip Esselstyn, author of The Engine 2 Diet; Mark Bittman, Author, Food Writer for The New York Times; and Neal Barnard, M.D., President, Physician's Committee on Responsible Medicine.

The event will take place on September 12-14, 2014 at the AT&T Education & Conference Center on the University of Texas Austin campus.

Food Day 2014

Food Day, a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food, will be held on October 24, 2014. Justice throughout the food chain - from farm workers to child consumers - will be the focus of the fourth annual event, as will increasing Amercans access to healthful food. 

Conceived of by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in 2011, the annual Food Day aims to encourage Americans to change their diets and work toward changing our nation’s food policies. Thousands of events will be held on Food Day, throughout the country to bring Americans together to celebrate real food.  

Webinar on Sugary Drink Warning Labels 

ChangeLab Solutions will host a webinar on Wednesday, September 24, to discuss "Warning Labels on Sugary Drinks: Promoting Informed Choices." 

Ian McLaughlin, Senior Staff Attorney and Program Director at ChangeLab Solutions, will moderate the discussion that will feature Harold Goldstein, Executive Director, California Center for Public Health Advocacy, Xavier Morales, Executive Director, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, and Jim O'Hara, Director of Health Promotion Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. 

Witnesses to Hunger Exhibit in New Haven, CT

Witnesses to Hunger is a growing national advocacy project featuring the voices and photography of parents who have experienced hunger and poverty firsthand. With sites in Philadelphia, Camden, Baltimore, and Boston, Witnesses to Hunger will work with community partners and photographers from New Haven to ignite a dialogue around hunger and poverty in Connecticut, and throughout our nation.

The opening reception will be held on Thursday, September 4, 2014 from 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm at New Haven City Hall. The exhibit will remain open from September 4 - 19, 2014. 

Front Burner News

School Lunches Healthier than Packed Lunches
Packed lunches are less healthy than cafeteria lunches and snacks, which are held to federal nutrition standards, according to a recent study by researchers at Tufts University. Read more.

Farmers Market Vouchers Improve Healthy Food Access 

Vouchers for shopping at farmers markets can help families on food assistance programs consume more fruits and vegetables, according to a study published in Food Policy. Read more

Eating out Equals Eating More 

People who eat out consume an average of about 200 calories more a day than when they cook at home, according to a study published in Public Health Nutrition. Read more.

40% of Americans will Develop Diabetes 

Approximately two out of every five Americans will develop type 2 diabetes at some point during their adult lives, according to a study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. Read more.  

Consumption of Produce Equals Better Health Outcomes 

The more fruits and vegetables people eat, the less likely they are to have heart problems, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health. Read more.

Rates of Abdominal Obesity Leveling Off among Kids 

After rising steadily for more than 10 years, the proportion of U.S. kids defined as obese due to a large waist circumference held steady between 2003 and 2012, according to a study published in Pediatrics. Read more.  

Siblings Influence Obesity 

Siblings are more likely to influence obesity than parents, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Read more.

Parents More Likely to Make Changes in Children’s Diets 

Parents of children with overweight and obesity are more likely to make changes in children’s diets than in their activity levels, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Read more.


Tax Soda like Cigarettes and Alcohol 

While soda consumption may be decreasing in the U.S., the country's intake is still high, leading to diet-related diseases, according to Roberto A. Ferdman, reporter for the Washington Post’s Wonkblog. He asserts that tobacco and alcohol are taxed at the federal and state level to compensate for their social costs, and soda should be too. Read more. 


Nearly 1 in 5 Americans Drinks at Least 1 Soda a Day 

A new survey of American adults across 18 states showed that 17 percent drink at least one sugary soda per day, with rates varying widely across states, according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more.

Opponents of Proposed Soda Tax in Berkeley File Petition 

Two Berkeley residents who oppose a proposed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages recently filed a petition against the city, alleging bias in the ballot language for the tax. One of the petitioners works as an associate for a public affairs firm that leads “coalition building efforts” in California for the American Beverage Association. Read more.   

Preschoolers’ Parents Buying Fewer Sugary Drinks 

Flavored Waters

Parents of preschool children in the U.S. may be purchasing fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Read more.  

Soda Companies Introduce Smaller Servings 

U.S. soft drink manufacturers are introducing smaller cans as a way to boost weak sales, as consumers shift away from sugary drinks. Read more.   

Americans Replacing Soda with other Sugary Drinks 

Despite signs that Americans are reducing their soda consumption, researchers worry that the general public is still consuming too much added sugar from other sugary beverages like fruit drinks, sports drinks, bottled tea, and energy drinks. Read more.        

Progress on Healthy State Vending Bill

California’s Healthy State Vending Bill (SB 912, Mitchell) recently passed the full Assembly floor. The bill, co-sponsored by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, eliminates the January 2015 expiration from current law, which requires minimal nutrition standards for foods and beverages sold in vending machines in state buildings. Read more.     


Australia and New Zealand Question Industry Self-Regulation

Food companies that agreed to an industry-regulated marketing code in Australia and New Zealand are still advertising products deemed by government standards as unhealthy, according to an NSW Cancer Council analysis. Read more.

Children’s Magazines Promote Unhealthy Food

Popular children's magazines are contributing to unhealthy food marketing to children and adolescents, according to research from the University of Auckland. Ream more.