HFA Newsletter, March 2018


In this month’s newsletter: The growing threat of state preemption of local governments’ right to tax sugary drinks… Our latest edition of Research Watch highlights a new study that finds sugary drink warning labels could reduce adolescent obesity… A look at Chile’s comprehensive efforts to curb the marketing of unhealthy foods… A roundup of recent media coverage of the sugar reduction movement, and more.

Research Watch, Volume 3, Issue 1

Research Watch

In the latest edition of HFA’s Research Watch, a bimonthly compendium of the most current and compelling research on sugar, health and policy, you’ll find:

  • A modeling study predicts that implementing a beverage warning label would lower obesity.
  • In a randomized trial, children were more likely to select a healthy beverage with a personalized label (bottle label featuring their name).
  • Analysis of NHANES data finds high sugar-sweetened beverage consumption accounted for 7.4% of all deaths from heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
  • A review of the scientific literature, junk food and SSB tax bills and laws, and federal taxing mechanisms concludes implementing federal junk food and SSB taxes are feasible.
  • Analysis of NHANES data on sugar consumption among children finds added sugars (and not naturally occurring sugars), specifically added sugars in liquid form, are associated with weight gain.

For more of the latest scientific findings on sugary drinks, subscribe here to receive new issues of Research Watch delivered directly to your inbox.

Preemption Efforts Across the Country

Preemption Efforts Across the Country

Our friends at Grassroots Change have been tracking industry-backed efforts to block local SSB tax efforts through adoption of statewide laws that preempt the authority of local jurisdictions to adopt taxes:

  • In Washington, Yes! To Affordable Groceries has registered as a ballot committee sponsored by the American Beverage Association. Though the committee states the effort would not try to roll back the Seattle SSB tax (we won’t know for sure until we see actual ballot language), it would stop any other local jurisdictions from enacting a similar tax. Beverage industry, allies start campaign to stop Seattle’s soda tax from spreading (Seattle Times, 2/28/2018)
  • In Oregon, steps are being taken to put together a constitutional amendment for the November ballot that would ban taxes on the sale of food and beverages. If successful, local governments would not be allowed to adopt sugary drinks taxes. Big Retailers Spend $1.3 Million To Stop Grocery Taxes In Oregon (OPB, 3/1/18)
  • In Arizona, the Senate Finance Committee passed a bill blocking local governments from taxing specific foods and beverages. Like the other preemption bills, it would not prohibit a statewide tax. The bill still needs approval from the House and Governor. Senate Committee Votes to Block Local Soda Tax (Arizona Public Media, 3/7/18)
  • Michigan Public Act 135 went into effect October 26, 2017 and prohibits local government from implementing an excise tax on the manufacture, distribution, or sale of food.
  • Additional efforts have been discussed in Illinois and Pennsylvania.

Research Spotlight: Flavored Milk

Flavored Milk

Healthy Food America funded a new review article: The association of flavored milk consumption with milk and energy intake, and obesity: A systematic review. Patel AI, Moghadam SD, Freedman M, Hazari A, Fang M, Allen IE. Preventive Medicine 2018; 111: 151-162.

Abstract. Taxes on sugary drinks are being implemented to prevent chronic diseases. Sugar-sweetened milk has been exempt from such policies because of its nutritional value. This systematic review sought to examine whether flavored milk consumption was associated with milk and energy intake, and obesity among children.

A search of PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane, CINAHL, Web of Science, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and the grey literature was conducted for peer-reviewed publications published before June 6, 2016 that met the following criteria: 1) English-language publications 2) studies of children ages 1 to 18 years, 3) controlled experimental, cohort, case-control, systematic reviews, or meta-analysis studies 4) dependent variable: flavored milk consumption 5) independent variable: weight, weight gain, weight change, body mass index, metabolic syndrome, waist circumference, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, serum glucose, calories, sugar, or milk consumed.

Of 3978 studies identified, 13 met inclusion criteria. Ten studies were experimental and three were longitudinal cohort studies. Eleven studies found that flavored milk increased overall milk intake, five of seven studies that examined energy intake showed that flavored milk increased energy intake, and one of three studies that assessed obesity outcomes demonstrated an increase in weight gain with flavored milk consumption. Only one study was a randomized controlled trial, most studies had high bias, and over half were industry-funded or did not disclose funding.

Although flavoring milk may increase milk intake, added sugars may promote increased energy intake. More data regarding flavored milk's impact on health is needed to inform its role in sugary drink policies.

New York Times article details new regulations in Chile requiring labeling and limiting marketing to kids

Ceral Boxes

Cereal boxes from Chile with and without their mascots. New York Times 2/7/18

Chile has succeeded in passing a host of new regulations to combat the country’s obesity crisis. It took more than a decade of fighting the industry, but explicit nutrition labels are now required, sugary drinks are taxed, marketing of certain foods to children has been significantly limited, and junk food is prohibited from being sold in schools. “Nutrition experts say the measures are the world’s most ambitious attempt to remake a country’s food culture, and could be a model for how to turn the tide on a global obesity epidemic.” Read the full New York Times article by Andrew Jacobs to learn more.

Model comments in response to Dietary Guidelines 2020-2025 development

The National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity is developing model comments in response to the proposed topics and questions to be examined in the development of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Comments are due by March 30. Please email Angela Amico ([email protected]) at the Center for Science in the Public Interest to receive the model comment when it is available

Highlights From Our Media Updates

Here is recent news coverage we found noteworthy.

More Taxes, Less Death? (The Atlantic 1/25/2018) “People say these taxes are regressive,” Lawrence Summers, a leader of the task force and a former Treasury secretary, told me. “But I say premature death is regressive.”

U.S. court to reconsider ruling on San Francisco soda health warnings (Reuters 1/29/2018) “A U.S. appeals court on Monday agreed to reconsider an earlier ruling which had blocked a San Francisco law that mandated health warnings for soda and other sugary drinks.”

A bitter legal fight over a Philadelphia soda tax could decide the future of sugar taxes in the US (Quartz 2/5/2018) “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court…voted in favor of hearing the case [against the Philadelphia soda tax]…If the court’s justices wind up deciding the tax is illegal, it may embolden the soda industry to use the court system to challenge similar levies in other states and cities.”

Baltimore committee passes bill barring restaurants from serving kids soda (The Baltimore Sun 2/13/18) “A Baltimore City Council committee voted … to support a bill that would bar restaurants from including sodas and other sugary drinks in kids meals, a move supporters say could improve children’s health.”

Canadians Advance Bill to Limit the Marketing of Unhealthy Foods to Children, Including Online (Center for Digital Democracy 2/20/18) “[Canada]…is considering new regulations that would impose broader restrictions on food advertising that is targeted at those under 17. It could cover everything from TV, online and print advertising to product labelling, in-store displays and even end some sponsorships for sports teams.”

Having just one soft drink a day could increase your cancer risk (Newsweek 2/23/18) “A new study [finds that] people who drink even one soda a day increase their chances of developing several types of cancer including, liver, prostate, ovary and gallbladder…[Even] people who weren’t overweight increased their risk of developing one of several obesity-related cancers. 

No Downturn in Obesity Among U.S. Kids, Report Finds (NPR 2/26/18) “Contrary to previous reports, the epidemic of fat has not abated. In fact, there's been a big jump in obesity among the nation's youngest children, according to the latest analysis of federal data, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.”

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