Michelle Obama Gets Food Companies to Act

Michelle Obama Thank to Michelle Obama’s crusade to combat children’s obesity, major food companies such as PepsiCo and Kraft Foods are changing their products.

She is, in fact, “defining defining her role as first lady by taking on the $600 billion food and beverage industries in a quest to end childhood obesity within a generation,” observes Kate Andersen Brower of Bloomberg Business Week, in an artticle entitled, “Michelle Obama’s ‘Spotlight’ on Obesity Enlists Kraft, PepsiCo.”

“Her lobbying of companies to make products healthier, labels easier to read and limit marketing of unhealthy foods to kids is paying off,” Brower observes.

A month after she began her campaign, “PepsiCo Inc., the world’s second-largest food and beverage company, pledged to stop selling full-sugar soft drinks in schools by 2012.” In addition, Kraft Foods Inc., the maker of Oreo cookies and Oscar Mayer lunch meats, jumped on board, announcing that it would further reduce the sodium content of its products..

Reporter Brower points out that the first lady’s efforts are part of a “movement to recast what the food industry is selling,” according to David Kessler, who was Food and Drug Administration commissioner from 1990 to 1997. “She puts the spotlight on the issue like few others can,” Kessler told Brower.

The American Beverage Association — which represents soda companies — has now joined Michelle Obama’s effort by running a national ad, which claims that the industry is committed to reducing beverage calories in schools by 88 percent.

Things started happening after a well-publicized meeting in Washington on March 16 when the first lady addressed members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents major food companies such as Kraft and PepsiCo. At that GMA meeting, Obama urged the companies to reduce sugar, fat and salt in their products and “to move faster and to go farther” to make them healthier.

The first lady has “accelerated our focus,” Kraft’s president of health and wellness, Rhonda Jordan, told the Bloomberg Business Week reporter Brower, who then quotes Patrick Basham, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based research group that promotes libertarian policies.

Basham believes that the first lady’s anti-obesity efforts are “in sync with public skepticism about `the motives of big business’ in the wake of the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression.” He also believes that the recent moves by the companies may be an effort to prevent government crackdown.

“The food industry is terrified of being either legislated out of business or so regulated they won’t be able to do what they want,” Basham told Brower.

What’s intriguing is that Michelle Obama became concerned about child nutrition for personal reasons.

She told audiences at a National PTA Conference in Arlington, Virginia, on March 10, that she got a “wakeup call” when her pediatrician voiced concern about her family’s eating habits.

While I applaud the first lady’s efforts, as always, no matter what changes the large food companies institute, I encourage people to reduce or even eliminate their consumption of processed foods.

Vegetables and fruits that come courtesy of Mother Nature are best for our bodies. Plus, they taste better — something you’ll discover after you cut back on processed carbs.

We just don’t need to consume large quantities of packaged foods that usually have been extensively processed, with sugar, fat and salt added.

Facebook: Is It a Fast Path to Friends, Fun & Even Fame? Get the Scoop with Gurus Jesse Stay, Mari Smith, Shama Hyder, Etc. on March 24

Are you on Facebook yet? What about Twitter or LinkedIn?

If not, it's time to get on the social networking bandwagon!

First, I strongly urge you to join the more than 175 million hip people now using the wildly popular Facebook social networking service!

If you're not on Facebook yet, would you like to know how to find friends, become popular, get people to check out your services, attend your teleseminar, etc.? Of course, the answer is "Yes!," right?

If you are already on Facebook, would you like to learn how to use it to find friends, fun and even fame?

So newbies and veterans alike, get a Facebook education!

Join me — for free — on March 24 at 3 p.m. EST on my Gab With the Gurus Radio Show. You can listen live or later.

Get details now on my Gab With The Gurus Blog here.

Also, stay tuned for 2 more social networking shows — March 31 is a hot Twitter show with gurus galore and a LinkedIn show is on April 7.

Got any ideas for experts for the LinkedIn show?

We need your help. My wonderful new Gab With the Gurus Associate Producer Meghan Walker and I can't do it all ourselves.

Send suggestions for LinkedIn speakers now.

Tell your friends now about the Facebook show, which they can listen to live or later. For details, send them to http://tinyurl.com/FacebookForAll-GabWithGurus

“Covering Health”: New Blog From Association of Health Care Journalists

If you're intrigued by health news, health journalism or are a heath journalist yourself, as I am, you'll want to know about a new blog, Covering Health, which is intended to help keep journalists who report on health and health care issues informed about the latest news in the field and connected with colleagues.

Even if you're not in health journalism, Covering Health's Blog Roll is enticement enough to visit the new site, because you'll find links to numerous, wonderful Health News Bogs such as USA Today's A Better Life,The Los Angeles Times' Booster Shots and Julie's Health Club in the Chicago Tribune.

Anyhow, the Covering Health blog– which comes from the Association of Health Care Journalists (a group to which I belong) — will include news about health journalists, notable stories and how specific issues are being covered.

The posts already up are interesting (well, at least to me), but the item that most struck my fancy was this one about Daschle Uses Video to Discuss Suggestions.

Farmer in Chief: Will He Get a Green Conscience?

Pollan_190_126As readers of this blog, you’re clearly concerned about food, food politics, sustainability, farmers, health care and fuel.

But will the new president put these issues at the top of his list to address?

Thanks to renowned food activist Michael Pollan, that’s a likely possibility, because he penned a thoughtful, insightful, must-read "letter" (really an article, entitled "Farmer in Chief") in The New York Times Magazine’s special "Food Issue."

Corn_imagesPollan — who is the Knight Professor of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley and author of several fabulous books, including his most recent, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto — addresses "Mr. President-Elect" and eloquently tells him that the health of our nation’s food system is "a critical issue of national security."

What’s more, he urges Mr. President-Elect, "you will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration." Hurrah!


FTC Praises Big Food for Changing Marketing Tactics Aimed at Kids, But Do They Deserve It?

From Jennifer Moore

Yikes! A total of 44 major food and beverage companies spent a whopping $1.6 billion dollars in 2006 marketing their products to kids 17 and under, according to a report released by the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC says in a press release that "although there is room for improvement, the food and beverage industries have made significant progress" in marketing more responsibly to children since 2005 when the FTC and the Department of Health and Human Services convened the Workshop on Marketing, Self-Regulation & Childhood Obesity to address the issue.

Oh, really? I’m not so sure about that.

For starters, the food makers promised to either stop targeting ads at kids or to advertise only "better-for-you products" to them.

One product that apparently meets these guidelines, devised by the food corporations themselves, is Kellogg’s Apple Jacks cereal, which was specifically reformulated so that it’s "better for you" (notice that they didn’t say "good for you"), according to Stephanie Clifford of The New York Times.

But a look at Kellogg’s website shows that Apple Jacks contains 12 grams of sugar per serving.

In fact, the very first ingredient listed on the Apple Jacks package is sugar. If that’s an example of something that’s supposedly better for kids, I shudder to think what was worse.

Big Food also issued its own report and press release congratulating themselves on meeting its own guidelines.

The food makers’ report notes that companies used varying criteria to determine the sugar content of "better for you" food, such as food that has no more than 12 grams of sugar per serving (which doesn’t count sugars found naturally in fruits, vegetables, or dairy).

So, by my calculations, Kellogg’s did the absolute least they could, using their own lax standards, to make their Apple Jacks less unhealthy.

The companies also decided for themselves what exactly advertising aimed at children means, so the standards vary.

Interesting. Don’t you think Coca-Cola was well aware that kids watch shows that aren’t primarily aimed at them such as "American Idol," which appeals to some 2 million youngsters, according to Clifford’s New York Times article?

The FTC and Big Food will have to forgive me for being none too impressed with this so-called progress.

I’m not the only one who isn’t bowled over. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood issued its own press release on the FTC’s report, which concludes this way:

"Given the concerning picture of food marketing’s infiltration of children’s lives painted by the FTC               report, it is disappointing that they continue to perpetuate the myth that self-regulation can effectively rein in an industry whose profits rely on commercializing childhood."

The Center for Science in the Public Interest also weighed in with some strong words of their own, saying that Big Food’s pledges to be more responsible are "carefully tailored with loopholes" and arguing that there’s a "disconnect between the food industry’s talking points and what we actually see on television during children’s programming."

Given the crisis of childhood obesity in the U.S. and the seemingly endless ways food manufacturers have found to push their products on children, I completely understand why the CFCC and CSPI feel so strongly.

As a mother to a five-year-old, I also strongly believe that Big Food isn’t doing nearly as well as they should be.

From Jennifer Moore

L.A. May Slow Onslaught of Fast Food

Jennifer Moore for SUGAR SHOCK! Blog

The Planning and Land Use Committee of the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a proposal that would keep new fast food places from opening in several neighborhoods in South L.A. for at least a year, according to Molly Hennessy-Fiske of The Los Angeles Times.

It’s easy to see why Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents south L.A., proposed the measure. A chart linked to Hennessy-Fiske’s article shows that 45% of all restaurants in the South L.A. area are fast food establishments, which is the highest concentration of such places in the city.

What’s more, the percentages of south L.A. adults with diabetes and adults who are obese are the highest of all areas in Los Angeles, at 11.7% and 30% respectively, according to a report issued by the city’s public health department.

Councilwoman Perry is also working to bring more grocery stores and sit-down restaurants to her area, according a press release on her website.

I imagine some will oppose Perry’s idea, because they think it impedes people’s freedom to eat as they please.

But she isn’t proposing to make it illegal for people to go to McDonald’s if they wish, or even to remove any fast food outlets from her district.

She simply wants to provide more choices about where to eat to her constituents, choices that residents of other L.A. residents apparently already have, and choices that will enable people to eat more healthfully.

This proposal must be approved by the entire L.A. city council and signed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in order to become law. Clearly South L.A. residents don’t need any more fast food joints in their backyard, so I hope the city council and mayor do the right thing and enact this moratorium.

Trans Fat: California Becomes First State To Kick It Out of Restaurants

Jennifer Moore for SUGAR SHOCK! Blog

California has become the first state in the United States to boot trans fat from restaurants and retail baked goods, according to Jennifer Steinhauer of The New York Times.

This means that the 88,000 restaurants in American’s most populous state will soon be free of trans fats.

The ban will be phased in gradually; trans fat must disappear from restaurants by 2010 and from baked goods by 2011, according to Steinhauer.

Unfortunately though, processed foods, a major source of trans fat, will be exempt from this new law.

The bill’s author was Democratic Assemblyman and former elementary school teacher Tony Mendoza, who decided to push for the ban because of the number of obese children he saw at his school, Steinhauer reports.

Not surprisingly, California’s restaurant lobby opposed the measure. The group conceded that trans fats are dangerous, but it was still against the ban.

“Our opposition was philosophical," explained Lara Dunbar, the California Restaurant Association‘s senior vice president of government affairs. "Banning one product isn’t necessarily the right solution.”

So let me get this straight: The restaurant lobby doesn’t dispute research showing the risks trans fat poses, but the group thinks it’s right to keep larding up the food because by banning it, you’re trumping people’s right to health? Absurd.

Thankfully, the government in California ignored this nonsense and took a big step to protect its 36-plus million citizens. I guess it’s no surprise that California would enact such a ban with the very fit Arnold Schwarzenegger as its governor.

Kudos to California, and let’s hope the other 49 states follow its lead!

And thanks to Jennifer Steinhauer of The New York Times for her report on this great news, which was also covered by the Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press and Reuters.

FDA: Foods Containing High Fructose Corn Syrup Shouldn’t Be Called “Natural”

Citing synthetic "fixing agents" used to manufacture it, an FDA official in charge of product evaluation and labeling said that "we would object to the use of the term ‘natural’ on a product containing HFCS," according to Lorraine Heller of FoodNavigator-USA.com.

This could be good news for people trying to eat well if it means that more food corporations will back off from labeling HFCS-sweetened foods as "natural," as Cadbury Schweppes and Kraft have already done.

Health blogger Rebecca Scritchfield provided the tip about this development.

New York Scandal: Gov. Eliot Spitzer Resigns

New York is an awful place to be this week because hyprocrisy is rearing its ugly head.

The soon-to-be-former Gov. Eliot Spitzer — described by the New York Times as a (former") "fierce enforcer of ethics" — resigned today because the truth came out about his involvement in a prostitution ring.

How could the man described by the New York Times as an "avenging state attorney general" who hunted "down Wall Street malefactors with an evangelical fervor" turn out to be such a cad and hypocrite?

Shame on the gubernatorial creep for being client # 9 of a call-girl ring when he used to crack down hard on them. Talk about two-faced.

And one more thing. During Spitzer’s resignation, what the heck was his wife Silda Wall Spitzer doing by his side? This is a man, who allegedly forked over $80,000 to prostitutes over the years!

Why would she support him after what he did? Dump the creep! Isn’t it a little late for contrition?

‘Nuff said.

New York Politician Opposes Greater Access to Fresh Fruits and Veggies–Why?

Note from Connie: Kudos to my blogging researcher/writer for writing about this astounding development. Your jaw may drop as you read this. What do you think of this?

New York’s City Council took a step toward fighting obesity by voting to issue 1,000 permits to street vendors to sell fresh fruits and vegetables in low-income neighborhoods, Reuters reports.

Sounds like a great idea. Who would be against making more delicious, nutritious fresh produce available to more people?

Well, unfortunately, City Councilman John Liu, who represents a district in the borough of Queens, for one.

"If people wanted this produce, the stores would be selling them and there would be vending carts on the street," he told Reuters.

So, is Councilman Liu saying that if stores in modest neighborhoods don’t sell much fresh produce, the people living there are just out of luck?

According to the New York Times, Liu wasn’t the only one that wasn’t wild about this initiative, also known as the Green Cart bill. Surprise, surprise, the retail food industry lobbied against it because they’re afraid they’ll lose customers to the fruit and vegetable vendors, the Times reports.

In fact, the final bill was scaled back from the legislation Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn initially proposed in December, which would have issued 1,500 Green Cart permits.

Apparently those concessions weren’t enough for some council people. Nine of them actually voted against the bill (the council has 51 members altogether, but only 46 voted on this plan).

I don’t know what on earth the bill’s opponents were thinking when they voted no, but luckily they were in the minority!

Jennifer Moore for SUGAR SHOCK! Blog