Saturday, June 25, 2011

Obama's Food Police in Staggering Crackdown on Market to Kids

Tony the Tiger, some NASCAR drivers and cookie-selling Girl Scouts will be out of a job unless grocery manufacturers agree to reinvent a vast array of their products to satisfy the Obama administration’s food police.

Either retool the recipes to contain certain levels of sugar, sodium and fats, or no more advertising and marketing to tots and teenagers, say several federal regulatory agencies. The same goes for restaurants.

It’s not just the usual suspected foods that are being targeted, such a thin mint cookies sold by scouts or M&Ms and Snickers, which sponsor cars in the Sprint Cup, but pretty much everything on a restaurant menu.

Although the intent of the guidelines is to combat childhood obesity, foods that are low in calories, fat, and some considered healthy foods, are also targets, including hot breakfast cereals such as oatmeal, pretzels, popcorn, nuts, yogurt, wheat bread, bagels, diet drinks, fruit juice, tea, bottled water, milk and sherbet.

Food industries are in an uproar over the proposal written by the Federal Trade Commission, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “The most disturbing aspect of this interagency working group is, after it imposes multibillions of dollars in restrictions on the food industry, there is no evidence of any impact on the scourge of childhood obesity,” said Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers.

The “Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children, Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles to Guide Industry Self-Regulation Efforts” says it is voluntary, but industry officials say the intent is clear: Do it, or else.

“When regulators strongly suggest a course of action, it’s treated as a rule, not a suggestion,” said Scott Faber, vice president of federal affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association. “Industry tends to heed these suggestions from our regulators, and this administration has made it clear they are willing to regulate if we don’t implement their proposal.”

It’s not just the food industry that will be impacted. Hundreds of television shows that depend on the advertising revenue, such as the Nickelodeon Channel, ESPN, and programs including "American Idol" will be affected, critics of the proposal say—at a cost of $5.8 trillion in marketing expenditures that support up to 20 million American jobs.

If the food is not reformulated, no more ads or promotions on TV, radio, in print, on websites, as well as other digital advertising such as e-mail and text messaging, packaging, and point-of-purchase displays and other in-store marketing tools; product placement in movies, videos, video games, contests, sweepstakes, character licensing and toy branding; sponsorship of events including sport teams and individual athletes; and, philanthropic activity tied to branding opportunities. That includes softball teams that are sponsored by food companies and school reading programs sponsored by restaurants.

“The Interagency working group recommends that the food industry, through voluntary self-regulatory efforts, make significant improvements in the nutritional quality of foods marketed to children and adolescents ages 2 to 17 years,” the proposal says.

“By the year 2016, all food products within the categories most heavily marketed directly to children should meet two basic nutrition principles. Such foods should be formulated to … make a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet and minimize the content of nutrients that could have a negative impact on health and weight.”

The foods most heavily marketed directly to children and adolescents fall into 10 categories: “breakfast cereals, snack foods, candy, dairy products, baked goods, carbonated beverages, fruit juice and non-carbonated beverages, prepared foods and meals, frozen and chilled desserts, and restaurant foods.”

Beth Johnson, a dietician for Food Directions in Maryland, said many of the foods targeted in this proposal are the same foods approved by the federal government for the WIC nutrition program for women, infants and children. “This doesn’t make any sense whatsoever,” Johnson said. “It’s not going to do anything to help with obesity. These are decisions I want to make for my kids. These should not be government decisions.”


Lithium - a new weapon in the fight against Parkinson's?

In mice

Lithium "profoundly prevents" brain damage due to Parkinson's disease, according to early-stage tests of the commonly-used medicine. The research, which follows studies indicating that it slows the progress of Alzheimer's, suggests lithium could be a cheap therapy to combat a range of brain disorders common in the elderly.

Scientists at the Buck Institute for Ageing in San Francisco made the finding in a study of mice. They hope to conduct their first trials in humans soon.

Compounds of lithium - itself a soft alkali metal - have been used for over 50 years to treat mania and mood swings. But its effect on a range of neuro-degenerative diseases is only starting to be appreciated. Earlier this year a small-scale study of people with mild cognitive impairment -trouble with memory and thinking - found it delayed the onset of full-blown Alzheimer's.

Psychiatrists believe it slows the formation of amyloid plaques and brain cell tangles thought to cause the disease.

The American researchers think lithium works in a similar way to prevent Parkinson's, which is caused because specific brain nerve cells die. They said their study - the first in animals - showed it stopped the build up of toxic proteins and cell death.

Prof Julie Andersen, of the Buck Institute, said trials in people to determine the correct dosage could start soon. "The fact that lithium's safety profile in humans is well understood greatly reduces trial risk and lowers a significant hurdle to getting it into the clinic," she said.

The mice were fed lithium at low doses, she added, suggesting that it could be effective in Parkinson's patients at "subclinical levels", which would avoid known side-effects of high doses including kidney problems. The study is published today (FRI) in the Journal of Neuroscience Research.

Lithium is also a cheap 'generic' drug, meaning its use could be expanded with minimal cost to the NHS. About 120,000 people in Britain have Parkinson's, which causes tremors, muscle stiffness and slow movement. At the moment there is no cure, although there are a range of treatments to reduce symptoms.


1 comment:

Wireless.Phil said...

Why no mention of Palm oil?

We're all eating wood anyway.

15 Food Companies That Serve You 'Wood'
Miriam Reimer
03/02/11 - 04:58 PM EST
( Wood pulp, or cellulose, in processed food report updated with the addition of Pepsi, Kellogg and Weight Watchers International.)