February 28, 2014

CLF Week in Links: Nutrition Labels, Corner Stores, Food Deserts

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

nutritionIndexNew labels by FDA. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing to update the Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods to reflect new public health and scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. The proposed label would also update out-of-date serving size requirements to better align with how much people really eat; for example, a can of soup might be labeled as one serving instead of the current 2.5. The new labels will require information about added sugars, as well as about potassium and vitamin D. This new labeling system should be a big improvement in communicating to consumers what they’re actually eating, and it’s been a long time coming. There’s no doubt, however, that corporations will fight it; when consumers realize how much fat, sugar, and sodium they’re actually consuming when they eat a product, the product may begin to lose its appeal.

Declining obesity in children. According to this New York Times story, a report in JAMA analyzes data from the CDC that offer evidence that America’s young children have turned a corner in the obesity epidemic. This has come as a surprise to researchers; it’s the first such evidence that attention paid to the unhealthy American diet in the past decade and may be motivating parents to serve their children better meals. The decline in obesity was documented among children between ages 2 and 5 and has not yet been observed in school-age children.

New food coming to corner stores. The Baltimore Department of Health has a new program to bring healthy food to the city’s corner stores. This is fine work by the Baltimore Office of Sustainability, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and city health commissioner Oxiris Barbot.

Help for Maryland food deserts. In Maryland, legislation encouraging vendors to make local fruits and vegetables more available in food deserts moved through the House and on to the Senate last week. The bill would provide $1 million yearly to small businesses that want to sell Maryland-grown produce in areas lacking grocery stores.

Praise for Food Depot. We were happy to see that Benjy Green’s Food Depot won Best of Show in Merchandising from the National Grocers Association. They won for the Eat Right Live Well campaign, which we helped them to implement as part of a study on supermarket intervention. You can read about Eat Right Live Well and Food Depot’s recently hired dietitian here. The campaign’s aim was to encourage low-income shoppers to buy more healthy items in-store while reducing their purchase of highly processed foods.

AHPC conference. If you’re planning to attend the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference this weekend in Washington, D.C., be sure to check out Anne Palmer’s presentation. She’ll discuss Food Policy Councils and partnerships on Sunday afternoon.

The burden of IFAP in rural communities. What can regulatory agencies do to protect people who live near industrial food animal production sites? In this PLOS ONE paper, Jillian Fry and CLF colleagues follow up on a paper from a year ago. The first paper explored why health departments are so deterred in protecting citizens’ health. This one explores why regulatory agencies, like state departments of agriculture, are deterred in doing the same. Now that the barriers have been identified, developing policies to overcome them is the next challenge.

Making the switch. In this NPR The Salt story, Bob Martin is quoted in regard to the trend among consumers to seek transparency in how their food is produced—and how meat producers are increasingly under the microscope. Bob suggests that making the switch to antibiotic-free chicken might be the easiest change to make (compared to beef or pork), because of the chickens’ short life cycle of 45 days.

Are you siding with the terrorists? Television host Larry King and actor Ray Wise give us an exquisitely funny performance in this spoof talk show episode, “Farmed & Dangerous.” Bob Martin is quoted. Watch it and laugh—and then cry.

Lipitz Awards. Hats off to Roni Neff, who leads our Food System Sustainability and Public Health program. She earned a Lipitz Award for her upcoming work analyzing focus group responses to test food date label language options, which is part of her program’s attention to the problem of food waste. Read more about it here.

US, EU, and antibiotics. Meghan Davis, one of our CLF-Lerner Fellows, and I co-authored a paper with Mandy Sorensen, who was the lead author, about the interplay between policy and science regarding low-dose antimicrobial use in livestock. In it, we compare U.S. and EU approaches and address industry practices in the EU that could serve as a model for more responsible use of antibiotics by US producers. The journal is Frontier in Microbiology, and it’s open-access.

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