Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News release] Traffic light food labels strengthen self-control

English: yellow traffic light Español: señal d...

English: yellow traffic light Español: señal de tráfico amarilla Deutsch: gelbes Verkehrszeichen Français : feux de signalisation jaunes Italiano: segnale stradale giallo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 9 March 2015 AlphaGalileo news release

Should food products be labeled with traffic light symbols to make health-related information on ingredients easier to understand? This question has remained a subject of debate. Now researchers at the University of Bonn have reached the conclusion that the traffic light label is more effective in helping consumers resist high-calorie foods than a purely information-based label. Scientists observed study participants in the brain scanner as they made purchase decisions. The study has just been published in the journal Obesity.

Red, yellow, green: The traffic signal labels on packages are supposed to be an easy-to-understand indication of the overall “healthiness” of a food product. For example, “red” symbolizes a high percentage of fat, sugar or salt, “green” a lower percentage. Just as on an actual traffic light, yellow falls in the middle. ” This is the first study that analyzes the effect that traffic light signals have on the evaluation processes in the consumer’s brain when making a purchase decision”, says Prof. Dr. Bernd Weber of the Center for Economics and Neuroscience (CENs) at the University of Bonn. Do the “traffic lights” help consumers choose a healthier diet when grocery shopping? Scientists from the CENs have addressed this question in a recent study.

 

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Nutrition | , , | Leave a comment

Public Wants Labels for Food Nanotech – and They’re Willing to Pay for It

From the 10 October 2013 North Carolina State press release

For Immediate Release

Matt Shipman | News Services | 919.515.6386

Dr. Jennifer Kuzma | 919.515.2592

Release Date: 10.28.13
Filed under Releases

New research from North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota finds that people in the United States want labels on food products that use nanotechnology – whether the nanotechnology is in the food or is used in food packaging. The research also shows that many people are willing to pay more for the labeling.

Study participants were particularly supportive of labeling for products in which nanotechnology had been added to the food itself, though they were also in favor of labeling products in which nanotechnology had only been incorporated into the food packaging.

Study participants supported labeling products in which nanotechnology had been added to food, as well as products in which nanotechnology had been incorporated into the packaging.

“We wanted to know whether people want nanotechnology in food to be labeled, and the vast majority of the participants in our study do,” says Dr. Jennifer Kuzma, senior author of a paper on the research and Goodnight-Glaxo Wellcome Distinguished Professor of Public Administration at NC State. “Our study is the first research in the U.S. to take an in-depth, focus group approach to understanding the public perception of nanotechnology in foods.”

The researchers convened six focus groups – three in Minnesota and three in North Carolina – and gave study participants some basic information about nanotechnology and its use in food products. Participants were then asked a series of questions addressing whether food nanotechnology should be labeled. Participants were also sent a follow-up survey within a week of their focus group meeting.

Study participants were particularly supportive of labeling for products in which nanotechnology had been added to the food itself, though they were also in favor of labeling products in which nanotechnology had only been incorporated into the food packaging.

However, the call for labeling does not indicate that people are necessarily opposed to the use of nanotechnology in food products. For example, many study participants indicated support for the use of nanotechnology to make food more nutritious or to give it a longer shelf life – but they still wanted those products to be labeled.

“People do have nuanced perspectives on this,” Kuzma says. “They want labeling, but they also want access to reliable, research-based information about the risks associated with labeled products – such as a Food and Drug Administration website offering additional information about labeled products.”

The researchers also found that about 60 percent of the study participants who responded to the follow-up survey were willing to pay an additional 5 to 25 percent of the product price for either nanotechnology-free products or for nanotechnology labeling.

The paper, “Hungry for Information: Public Attitudes Toward Food Nanotechnology and Labeling,” was published online Oct. 7 inReview of Policy Research. Lead author of the study is Jonathan Brown, a former graduate student at the University of Minnesota. The work was supported by National Science Foundation grant SES-0709056.

 

 

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , , , | Leave a comment

The Future of Food?

FOOD, FACTS and FADS

 “What we eat has changed more in the past forty years than in previous forty thousand”.  Eric Schosser, Fast Food Nation

In the beginning of the 19th century, the vast majority of Americans were farmers.  In the beginning of the 20th century, most worked in factories. In the beginning of the 21st century, the fastest growing segment of the economy was service jobs, especially in the food service industry. About fifty cents of every dollar Americans spent on food was spent in a restaurant, predominantly fast food.  Food preparation changed dramatically from home cooking to processed food, in other words, we relied on others more and more to cook our food for us.

 We evolved our sense of taste to help us survive – edible plants generally taste sweet – deadly ones bitter.  With the rise of processed and fast food, a new industry was born, the…

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July 14, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sugar can be hidden in a lot of processed food products that make health claims.  Yogurt is one of them.

When I see the yogurt aisle in the supermarket, I am amazed at all the different types available now.  This slideshow gives us some guidance on the various types to choose.  Here’s where label reading is a necessity.  Some people think that yogurt is healthy and most are, but notice the grams of sugar (some can be quite high) and the grams of protein (which often differ considerably).

This is a start on some different choices if you want to choose yogurt as a dairy alternative protein source.

CLICK HERE.

 

FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Sugar can be hidden in a lot of processed food products that make health claims.  Yogurt is one of them.

When I see the yogurt aisle in the supermarket, I am amazed at all the different types available now.  This slideshow gives us some guidance on the various types to choose.  Here’s where label reading is a necessity.  Some people think that yogurt is healthy and most are, but notice the grams of sugar (some can be quite high) and the grams of protein (which often differ considerably).

This is a start on some different choices if you want to choose yogurt as a dairy alternative protein source.

CLICK HERE.

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March 22, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Simple, Concise Messages About The Benefits Of Phytonutrients Would Help Consumers

From the 12 April 2012 article at Medical News Today

An expert panel at the Institute of Food Technologists’ Wellness 12 meeting urged the food industry to find simple yet powerful language to tell consumers about the many benefits of a diet rich in phytonutrients.

Phytonutrients are plant-based components that are thought to promote health, such as beta carotene and lycopene. They are typically found in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and teas.

During the discussion, the panelists noted that phytonutrients [chemicals from plants] are very complex, and care must be taken when promoting their benefits to avoid the image of a “magic bullet.” At the same time, consumers can grow weary of constantly changing nutritional recommendations, causing them to feel overwhelmed and possibly decide to forgo healthy eating altogether. …

…Diekman suggested promoting “strongly flavored, darkly colored” foods, and taking care to highlight the importance of phytonutrients as part of the whole food. Consumers should be encouraged to choose healthy plant-based foods because of how all the ingredients combine to produce health benefits.
Key Nutrient: Allicin
Sources: Garlic, Onions
Benefits: Heart health; Cancer prevention, helps prevent increased cholesterol
Key Nutrient: Limonin
Sources: Grapefruits, Lemons, Limes, Oranges
Benefits: Cancer prevention, helps prevent increased cholesterol, lung health
Key Nutrient: Lutein
Sources: Broccoli, Spinach, Kiwifruit, Lettuce
Benefits: Eye health…

April 10, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Robert J. Davis, Ph.D.: Top 10 Food Label Tricks to Avoid in 2012

 

How to understand and use the US Nutritional F...

Image via Wikipedia

Robert J. Davis, Ph.D.: Top 10 Food Label Tricks to Avoid in 2012

This slideshow presents the truth about many claims that seem healthy on the surface as

  • No trans fat – anything including at least .5 grams of fat per serving can legally be rounded down to zero
  • High fiber – many fibers have no health benefit, you’re almost always better off with natural fibers in fruit, vegetables, whole grains

Click here to see the entire slideshow

 

January 7, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment

New food labels coming soon?

From the 6 December blog item at Public Health Perspective

A new labeling system proposed by the Institute of Medicine would make it easy for consumer to understand the nutrients in food. The front of food packages would feature a “stars system”, with zero to three stars for an item, based on the amount of trans fats, added sugars and sodium in the food.

IOM Proposed Label

December 7, 2011 Posted by | Nutrition | | Leave a comment

Front-of-Package Nutrition Labeling — An Abuse of Trust by the Food Industry?



Sample Front-of-Package Label Adhering to the Nutrition Keys System Developed by the Grocery Manufacturers of America and the Food Marketing Institute.

Sample Front-of-Package Label from the Traffic-Light System Used in Britain.

From http://eatdrinkbetter.com/2009/10/26/smart-choices-food-labeling-program-suspended/

Excerpts from the New England Journal of Medicine 23 June 2011 Perspective

On January 24, 2011, two major food-industry trade associations, the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute, announced a new and voluntary nutrition-labeling system that major food and beverage companies would use on the front of packages to “help busy consumers make informed choices.” …
…This program, called Nutrition Keys, follows on the heels of an industry free-for-all in which different companies used different, and in many cases self-serving, symbols to communicate how healthful their products were. An example is the Smart Choices program, whereby industry established nutrition criteria that would qualify products for a special Smart Choices label. This enterprise was met with disbelief when products such as Froot Loops and Cocoa Krispies qualified as Smart Choices,…
…At first glance, the industry action might seem positive — a single standardized system with objective nutrition information might guide better food choices. The industry plans to list the amount and percentage of the recommended daily value (%DV), when available, for calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugars….
…There are, however, major flaws in this approach. First, the timing of this action by the food industry is suspicious at best, and the move is being made in a political context where the industry is pitted against both government and the public health community. …
…Most troubling is the fact that the industry announced its own approach even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA have already commissioned an objective body, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), to convene an expert committee and issue recommendations for front-of-package labeling. The IOM committee is scheduled to release its final report this fall….

Related IOM Links

Includes History of nutrition labeling, Overview of Health and Diet in America, Scientific basis of front-of-package nutritionrating systems, and appendixes

  • Consumer labelling: Food fights (economist.com)
  • Small step forward in global food labelling (Canadian Medical Association News, June 2011)
    “Global standards for “mandatory nutrition labelling” on the back of food packaging appear to be in the offing but standards for the front of packages appear to be a distant dream.The guidelines will be crafted this summer by the Codex Food Labelling Committee, which is part of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, created in 1963 by United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization to develop food standards, guidelines and codes of practice to protect consumer health and ensure fair trade practices with regard to food…….Proponents hope the back-of-package labels — which would articulate general information about such things as fat, protein, fibre, calorie content — will serve as an impetus to all nations to adopt official labelling requirements,  if only because they would soon become a requisite element of international trade…….Although several countries are experimenting with forms of front-of-packaging labelling, such as the United Kingdom, which  introduced a voluntary colour-coded traffic light system in 2007, (www.cmaj.ca/cgi/doi/10.1503/cmaj.081755), no nation has mandatory regulations.”…
  • U.S. Seeks New Limits on Food Ads for Children (nytimes.com)
  • Sunday Comic Strip: Isn’t Food One of the Ingredients? (fooducate.com)

June 26, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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