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Food Policy News: Week of March 14th, 2014

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  • The American Beverage Association’s anti-soda-tax coalition in San Francisco, the Coalition for an Affordable City, has started their ridiculous marketing campaign leading up to the November vote, playing off of increasing concerns over affordability of living in the city. They argue that SFers already pay so much to live in the city, that another “big” tax – which is only 2 cents per ounce, hardly “big” in my opinion – places an unfair burden on consumers.  I was pleased to see that their Twitter feed, @NoSFBevTax, is not getting much of a positive response. [48 Hills]
  • Many states are using a clever “loophole” to avoid enduring cuts to SNAP in the most recent Farm Bill, angering Republicans. States are opting into the “heat and eat” program, which provides enhanced access to SNAP benefits through fuel assistance programs. See how each state will be affected by the cuts in this interactive map. [NPR]
  • The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), which handles private sector donations to Let’s Move!, released its 2013 Annual Report detailing $330 million in partner commitments. Commitments include things like increasing access to grocery stores in under-served areas and reducing calorie and sugar content in food products. [Obama Foodorama]
  • On March 4th, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a ban on the sale of bottled water (single-use bottles, or anything smaller than 21 ounces) on city property in an effort to reduce plastic waste. The ban also encourages installation of more water fountains. The ordinance still needs mayoral approval, but would be effective October 1st if passed. [SFGate]
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Food Policy News: Week of February 28th, 2014

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Source: Food and Drug Administration
  • New research from the Berkeley Media Studies Group implicates in Big Soda in coloring media coverage of recent (failed) soda tax proposals in Richmond and El Monte, California. Their research found that the soda industry actively recruited community members – including pastors, business owners, and local politicians – to speak out against the taxes, making it appear as if opposition came from the community. Their ties to the soda industry (in some cases, these people were paid) were not disclosed. [Berkeley Media Studies Group]
  • The latest obesity rates were just released in a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) report and show that obesity is decreasing in the youngest age group, children aged 2-5, according to 2011-2012 NHANES data. Although the NYT emphasizes the 43% reduction in obesity among this small age group, the more important takeaway is that obesity rates appear to be leveling off (although increases were shown in some groups) and are still alarmingly high. [New York Times]
  • The FDA revealed the first image of redesigned food labels, the first major redesign since they were implemented nearly 25 years ago. The redesign is long overdue and there have been several other efforts to promote a more informative label, including front-of-pack labels (e.g. herehere, and here). In response to growing portion sizes, misinformation, and consumer concern about certain nutritional content (e.g. added sugar), the new labels will make a few small tweaks that will hopefully provide consumers will easy-to-interpret nutrition information. Importantly, serving sizes will not be the suggested size, but will represent the amount that consumers typically eat – e.g. 1 cup of ice cream, rather than 1/2 cup. Nutrition expert Marion Nestle supports the new design. However, some are skeptical that the changes will improve consumers’ ability to choose healthier foods, given that only a small fraction actually use the labels. [New York Times]

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