TASK FORCE ON CHILDHOOD OBESITY

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Senator Purcell, Co-Chair-Chaired

Representative Yongue, Co-Chair

Kelly, Johnston, Vice President – Government Affairs, Campbell’s Soup Company gave an excellent overview of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). He presented the goals of the 16 food advertising participants (Campbells, Burger King Corp., Kelloggs, etc.) which are to shift the mix of products advertised primarily to kids under 12 to fewer calories, lower fats, sodium, and sugars. The products for children need to be more nutrient oriented and to be part of the obesity solution, by supporting parents and schools. The advertising is now based on science-based nutrition standards as defined by the FDA and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. Corporations spent many millions of dollars on the reformulation of their products to reduce fats, sugars, sodium and add more fiber with whole grains. Reformulation is an expensive process and it may cost the company some or all of their customers. Campbells has changed 25 different products, while Kelloggs has changed 10. The nutritional profile of 37 cereals shows that there are more cereals with less than 10 grams of sugar today than there are with 12 grams.  The initiative is moving forward by increasing the commitment to these advertising changes from 50 percent to 100 percent and requiring that advertising commitment be met solely through healthier dietary choices or better-for-you products. In addition, the advertising venues have been expanded to include digital and mobile media. The CFBAI group will review dietary guidelines for 2010 (when they are issued) and look at SNAC Pac recommendations and other relevant nutrition science developments. According to the Better Business Bureau the participants in the initiative have met their commitments and have made significant progress in child-directed advertising and the reformulation of new products. They are looking at using a front pack labeling system similar to what is done in Europe so customers can easily see the calories and contents of product.

Butch Gunnells, President, North Carolina Beverage Association reviewed his association which is comprised of 17 companies in NC that produce a wide range of non-alcoholic beverages.  Members include Cola-Cola, Pepsi-cola and five independent bottlers and they have approximately 11,000 employees in North Carolina. Legislation was supported by the Association and passed in 2005 to establish statewide standards for vending machine beverages and snack foods sold in public schools. The guidelines were intended to reduce the number of calories children consume through beverages, provide a broader range of lower-calorie and smaller portion beverage choices, and remove full calorie soft drinks in schools. Specific guidelines for the elementary, middle school and high school were highlighted. In addition, the school beverage guidelines are also available on the website for easy access.  Beverage companies have spent countless hours training their marketing and sales teams to work with schools. They also continue to reformulate products to create smaller package sizes. There was a 58 percent cut in the total calories contained in all beverages shipped to schools between 2004 and 2007. There was a 65 percent reduction in shipments of full calorie soft drinks to schools which are provided at the high schools after hours and in teacher lounges. In the second year of the implementation of the school beverage guidelines 79 percent of all agreements between LEAs and bottlers have complied with the guidelines. The program is audited every year and the third year audit will be released the first week in March.  It was noted that in 2004 high school students drank 12.5 ounces of soft drink per week and in 2009 consumption had decreased to 4 ounces. In conclusion, the presentation emphasized the “Let’s Move” Campaign initiated by First Lady, Michelle Obama and the involvement of the Association in implementing the “Clear on Calories” initiative this year (completion in 2012) in regard to product labels, and vending and fountain machine displays. A questions was raised by Senator Purcell about increasing the tax on soft drinks and naturally the bottling industry feels the taxes on their products is high enough and they should not be singled out as there are many products and other issues (lack of exercise) that lead to obesity.

Susan Havala Hobbs, Clinical Associate Professor, Director-Doctoral Program in Health Leadership highlighted the nutrition standards recommendations for school lunches from the Institute of Medicine. Schools are still serving too much fat in their school lunches. Implementation of the school lunch regulations could take the FDA 3 to 5 years to issue.  The recommendations for schools meals included an increase in fruits and vegetables, make half grains whole grains, milk must be low or no fat, use only trans-free products, limit sodium to 740 mg and set maximum calorie target. If you raise the price of a la carte items you will discourage purchases. A national school food report card chart for 2007 was shown and North Carolina scored a D+ indicating a weak state wellness policy. The requirements in the policies should address nutrition education, physical activity and wellness activities, set nutrition guidelines for all foods available on each school campus during the school day and involve parents, students, school food personnel, school board, administrators and the public. Currently 20 to 30 percent of school districts meet minimum standards with weak implementation. The Institute of Medicine recommendation is to expand the NC Healthy Schools Partnership to included local healthy school coordinator in each LEA. In addition, junk-food marketing should be removed from school signs, scoreboards, hallways and buses. Also, 93 percent of children menus have too many calories and eating out is one of the leading causes of obesity. Several strategies were presented to encourage companies to adopt stronger marketing policies. A discussion of the soft drink taxes and the possible revenue generated from this funding source concluded the presentation. If NC would increase the soft drink tax by 2 cents they could raise $91 million per year which could be used to fund many programs to address childhood obesity. Also if the soft drink tax was 10 percent it would equate to an 8 percent decrease in consumption. Menu labeling of calories was also recommended. Kentucky and Oregon got the highest grades in the national report and members asked what they are doing and the response was they have not been impacted by the financial challenges that NC has had to face. One member suggested doing menu labeling in all state cafeterias as a starting point.

Hank Cardello, Chair, Global Obesity Business Forum, UNC Chapel Hill reviewed the work of the Task Force on Childhood Obesity four main factors emerged: 1) An engaged food industry is essential to enhancing child nutrition, 2) Regulatory initiatives must consider both corporate and public health goals, 3) Changing consumer behavior is challenging (leverage the power of the Eat Smart, Move More program), and 4) Lowering excess calories should be our number one priority. A brief overview of a few of the initiatives were presented that included portion-controlled packaging (studies show that 100-calorie packs are effective), Restaurant products for kids in snacks meals and beverages, Cereal Initiatives (General Mills reducing sugar in 10 pre-sweetened cereals), School vending (pricing levels), Advertising to Children (Corporations committing to limited and/or eliminating advertising to children under 12).  Several public sector initiatives were also highlighted including legislation from California and the federal government regarding anti-obesity plans, calorie labeling on menus and the soda tax proposal. For the plan to be successful it must contain criteria for corporations to make profits, to be part of the solution, consumer efforts need support, actions must be geared to lowering obesity rates not punishing specific products or categories, and most of all it must be kept simple. Overall the one issue to focus on is CALORIES. If you reduce calories you will begin to address the obesity issue.

Roberta Friedman, Director of Policy, Rudd Center, Yale University provided a brief background on the strategic science research being done by the Rudd Center on food marketing to youth, soft drink taxes, school and pre-school nutrition, menu labeling and weight bias. She indicated the research shows there is a massive movement in marketing to children. She estimated children watch approximately 15 TV food ads per day or 5,500 TV messages per years. These ads promote products high in fat, sugar, and/or sodium and the industry spends upwards of $1.6 billion per year in marketing to children and teens. Research indicates there is a direct correlation between TV viewing and a higher BMI specifically due to food ads as children consume 45 percent more when exposed to food advertising. Product tie-ins, integration and product placement are also contributing factors not just TV ads.  Mobile marketing on Twitter and Facebook, Internet advertising, in-store marketing, fundraisers and even box tops for education are other methods of marketing to children. In a recent Rudd Cereal study the key findings resulted in the least healthy cereal are the most heavily marketed to children. These cereals have 85 percent more sugar, 65 percent less fiber and 60 percent more sodium. An average preschooler sees 642 cereal ads per year on TV alone. When considering statewide wellness policy changes emphasis should be on strong language such as a ban on all advertising on school campuses, ban all food/beverage ads, or ban sale of non-nutritious products.  Another area of research involved the increasing consumption of sugars and sugar substitutes in the American diet and its link to health problems such as weight gain/obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Several medical organizations have proposed adding a penny per ounce tax on any beverage with added caloric sweeteners to reduce consumption and raise money for obesity prevention. In North Carolina the penny per ounce excise tax would decrease consumption by about 23 percent and produce revenue of approximately $1.4 billion in 2010-2012 and $2.8 billion by 2015. Research has also been done on improving school nutrition by recommending changes in policies to implement new a la carte foods standards, increase reimbursements rates for more fresh vegetables, whole grains, serve low or non-fat milk, initiate or improve Farm-to School programs, and train school service personnel regarding nutrition, cooking skills and obesity.  In conclusion, the policy recommendations are as follows: calories on menus, menu boards and drive-thrus, include the following statement “The recommended daily caloric intake for an average adult is 2000 calories), and other nutrition information should be available on the premises. When the caloric intake statement is included on menus it will account for 250 fewer calories being consumed. Menu labeling is critically important and can affect what parents buy for their children.  NC should develop a plan to encourage restaurants to make information available regarding menu labeling.

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One Response to “TASK FORCE ON CHILDHOOD OBESITY”

  1. Irma Rollings Says:

    Great post. How long have you been blogging for? It makes me realise that I need to improve mine a lot! Irma Rollings


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