Wednesday 28th of February 2024

sweet poison .....

sweet poison .....

from Crikey .....

Ad self-regulator says 72% sugar is a simple serve of fruit

David Gillespie, lawyer and author of "Sweet Poison, why sugar makes us fat" writes:

The Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) has ruled on my complaint about Nestle's Fruit Fix advertising. Apparently Nestle has absolutely done nothing wrong. It's perfectly ok to advertise a product which is 72% sugar as being equivalent to one serve of fruit.

It's also wrong to suggest that the product was targeting children under 14 years of age. No you see, it was their parents being targeted, so there was no need to consider the special provisions relating to advertising to children.

Even though the ASB acknowledged that children would be viewing the programs in which it appeared, they decided that the "advertisement is not directed to children". And I suppose that's right, looking at the ad again it probably is trying to target parents feeling guilty about their children's nutrition rather than the children themselves. Though I'm sure the kids don't mind the lolly in their lunch box.

The ASB spends much time in its decision (enter 284/09 in the case search box) pointing out that it is not applying a legal test in its determinations. They don't want you to go mistaking them for an impartial regulator or court. Rather they are an industry funded self-regulator who sees their role as providing "guidance to advertisers" on what the community considers acceptable.

For a non-legal analysis, the ASB have gotten very pernickety about the definition of fruit. I was suffering under the impression that I knew what fruit was. A strawberry was an example that leapt to mind when thinking about strawberry flavoured Fruit Fix's, but as Nestle pointed out, they contain more grapes and apples than anything else. Even so, each of these whole fruits is at most 15.5% sugar. Process them, squish them and dry them out though, and you can get that up to the 75% range.

Advertisers of all manner of confectionary should be very pleased with the ruling indeed. According to the test which the ASB seems to be applying, a Mars Bar could be advertised as equivalent to three serves of fruit. The Mars Bar is only 56% sugar compared to 72% for the Fruit Fix, so maybe they could top it up a tad and chuck in a little more salt so it didn't taste too sweet.

And I can't wait to see a range of new advertisements from Big Sugar telling us that a 250ml bottle of soft drink is equivalent to two serves of fruit. They will of course have to make sure that the sugar molecules involved were once part of a piece of fruit rather than the dreaded sugar cane. Perhaps they could demand ID from the sugar molecules at the factory door. That should sort them out.

Now I'm sure the ASB (and Nestle for that matter) would say that I am unfairly shooting the messenger and they might just be right. They are simply applying the black letter of the wording of the Australian Dietary Guidelines. They clearly state (somewhere in the fine print) that one and a half tablespoons of sultanas are equivalent to a serve of fruit and so is half a cup (125 ml) of fruit juice. So while I can rant and rave about how much sugar is in those things, the people watching over our health have deemed those to be equivalent to fruit.

Pureed, Dried and Juiced (once was) fruit is no more fruit, than a bag of sugar is grass. It's time the escape clause was removed from the guidelines. It's time the game of ducks and drakes with sugar molecules was bought to an end. And its time advertisers were made to call a lolly a lolly.

Suggesting to time-poor parents that they were in some way doing their children a favour by giving them a lump of sticky sugar and calling it fruit is just plain appalling. Big Sugar knows it's not true. Your kids' dentist knows it's not true (go on, ask her). And you (and your kids) shouldn't swallow it, no matter how much the ASB is happy to believe that nothing untoward is going on.

meanwhile .....

Smart is the new cool thing. There's a smart car, cities now tout smart growth, and you can buy a smart refrigerator. Now comes another breakthrough: even your breakfast cereal has gotten smart.

At least that's what we consumers are being told by a group of major food corporations that are hoping to cash-in on the growing public concern about nutrition. Your concern is their concern, they say, so these eager-to-serve marketers have launched a snappy food labelling campaign to guide your nutritional choices. They've designated hundreds of their food products as being not just tasty, zesty and zowie - but also good for you.

You'll know which ones to reach for on the supermarket shelf because they'll be labelled with a snappy green checkmark on the front of their packages, along with the phrase, "Smart Choices."

The industry says that this seal of approval is all about helping today's busy shoppers save time. No need to read those tedious lists of ingredients on the backs of food boxes, bottles, jars and cans, for the simple green checkmark is your one-glance reassurance that you're making the smart nutritional choice for your family.

You know, smart choices like Froot Loops, Fudgesicle bars and Frosted Flakes. Yes, all of these sugar-saturated concoctions and many more have received the industry's good-for-you checkmark.

sugarland .....

from Crikey .....

Still sweet for sugar in fat, slumbering Australia

David Gillespie, lawyer and author of "Sweet Poison, why sugar makes us fat" writes:

It's been a rough few weeks for Big Sugar in the United States. First, Dr Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that soda and sugar-sweetened beverages "play a particular role in the obesity epidemic".

Then the American Heart Association dramatically reduced their recommendation on safe levels of sugar consumption. They suggested an adult male should eat no more added sugar than is contained in a can of soft drink, women may only have two thirds of a can and children a third or less per day.

The New York City Department of Health then jumped on the bandwagon, releasing its "Are you pouring on the pounds" campaign in subway stations all over the Big Apple. The posters depict human fat being poured out of a soft drink bottle and end with the slogan "Don't Drink Yourself Fat".

Then, up pop New York City health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, nutritionist Dr. Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health, Kelly Brownell, an obesity expert at Yale University in Connecticut and a bunch of other health experts, demanding that the US tax soft drinks to fund the health effects of their consumption.

And if all that wasn't enough, some actual science happened as well. Dr Richard Johnson and his team from the University of Colorado reported on a study they had been conducting on the relationship between fructose and high blood pressure. Fructose is a simple sugar which is one half of sucrose (table sugar). They found that if they gave men a 200g daily dose of fructose for two weeks they increased their blood pressure.

At the start of the study, 19% of the participants were diagnosed as suffering metabolic syndrome (a condition made up of several conditions including excess weight around the midriff, high blood pressure, raised blood sugar and raised levels of blood fats known as triglycerides). At the end of the study (just two weeks later), this figure had more than doubled to 44%. In addition to the increase in blood pressure, there were also rises in triglyceride levels, insulin levels and measures of insulin resistance, as well as a lowering in 'healthy' HDL cholesterol levels.

You'd need to drink two, two-litre bottles of soft drink a day to get 200g of fructose, so it was more than twice the amount the average American consumes. But in just two weeks it had caused considerable harm indeed.

On the same day a joint study by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research reported that even at the levels currently being consumed, soft drink was doing serious harm. The researchers interviewed 42,000 Californians. They found that 24% of adults drink one or more soft drinks a day, and these adults are 27% more likely to be overweight than their peers who didn't.

In the face of this constant barrage, Big Sugar has had no choice but to hit back. Today they've launched a co-ordinated national newspaper and television campaign putting their side of the story.

Full page advertisements made up to look like news stories declared "High-fructose corn syrup was acquitted today amidst a flood of public apologies by consumers who had singled the corn sweetener out as a unique cause of obesity". And TV ads ran a similar line accusing the consumer of unfairly blaming corn sugar for his weight problem. High Fructose corn sugar is what Americans use to sweeten soda instead of sugar. It's functionally equivalent to sugar and is about 55% fructose.

Corn refiners are sick of being blamed for the obesity epidemic and the ads point out that HFCS is no worse than sugar or honey. Which is perfectly true, but meaningless when all three contain similar amounts of fructose. It's the equivalent of declaring their products to be (say) asbestos free. Also a great marketing message, but similarly uninformative.


Meanwhile, juice maker Welch's, soft drink maker PepsiCo Inc, the American Beverage Association, the Corn Refiners Association, McDonald's Corp and Burger King Holdings Inc have formed a group called 'Americans against Food Taxes' to lobby against the proposed soda tax. It's clearly panic button time.


Putting aside for a minute the inanity of fighting about whether sugar is worse than HFCS or the pros and cons of sin taxes, the point is that there is a significant public debate going on across the pond. The science is being discussed in daily newspapers, dramatic limitations are being recommended and the politicians and universities are in the debate up to their ying-yangs.

Here in Sugarland exactly none of the above is happening. Our Heart Foundation endorses high sugar snacks for kids. Our national healthy eating guidelines recommend levels of consumption that are at least twice the American recommendations. And our public health messages are stuck in the low fat 1960s with barely a mention of sugar. You won't see Big Sugar running desperate (and stupid) TV ads here. They don't need to. There is no public concern. There is no debate. And there is no PR problem. Wake up Australia.

lapdancing .....

from Crikey .....

Growing profit on the fat of the unfortunate

David Gillespie, lawyer and author of "Sweet Poison, why sugar makes us fat" writes:

Here's a brain teaser for you. What do you do when the people who most need your product can't afford to buy it? Purveyors of big screen TVs and other electronic knick-knacks have found the answer in buy-now-pay-nothing-til-2037 deals. And that works well where the punters are queuing around the block but just don't have the readies.

But what to do when your potential customers don't know they need your product? And even if they did, may not have the wherewithal to drop up to 13 large acquiring it? Give up? Then forget about a career in pharmaceutical PR. You get the government to pay for it, dummy.

The folks at Allergan have exactly this problem. Allergan make a nifty little thing called a lap-band. If you chop open an obese person and whack a lap-band in, they suddenly can't eat as much and the theory is that should do all sorts of good things for them.

Lap-band surgery is starting to get very popular. Two years ago, just 8193 were done in Australia, but last financial year this had grown to 12,247. A whopping 50% increase in the market in just one year. There's gold in them thar hills.

You don't need Glenn Stevens to run the numbers to realise that the number of people with the necessary girth AND moolah is not going to last much longer. Solution: get the government (that is, the taxpayer) to step in and start picking up the tab.

Allergan's done all the right things. Endow a university with some dosh to research how terrific its product is. Smile happily as the researchers go forth and tell the government. Glow contentedly when the government makes a recommendation that consideration be given to "boosting access" to its product. It's all good stuff, but it's not exactly moving like a freight train and where's that government money?

Time for a bit of PR creativity. Time to introduce the new sport of Extreme Lobbying. Professor Dawn DeWitt, from the University of Melbourne, explained how it works to ABC's AM program yesterday.

Professor DeWitt is helping the folks at the Monash Centre for Obesity Research and Education (funded by Allergan) with a new "trial" of Allergan's lap-band product in 30 indigenous Australians in the Goulburn Valley. She wants to see if they have the same success as folks in the "white population".

This is a product that has been installed in almost 18,500 Australians in the past two years. Even basic maths would tell us that more than  500 of those could have been of indigenous descent (and some of them may even have been from the Goulburn Valley). So what exactly will this trial tell us that that we don't already know? Is there some suggestion that people in Goulburn Valley are constructed differently from the rest of us?

Professor DeWitt was ready with the answer to that one. She told AM that "if [the trial] does work then we can go to government and say look there really ought to be a special program to support this in an ongoing way." Ah, right, so this has nothing to do with the health of indigenous Australians and everything to do with getting taxpayers to pick up the tab for lap-band surgery.

Indigenous Australians suffer 6 times the rate of Type II Diabetes when compared to the rest of the population. Unfortunately for Allergan, it also has significantly less purchasing power when it comes to surgical solutions. This latest trial is clearly nothing more than a disingenuous attempt to end-run that problem and open up a brand new government-funded gold mine for Allergan.

Extreme lobbying uses actual surgical intervention in order to make your political point (let's hope Turnbull doesn't start doing that -- Rudd-ectomy anyone?). This trial is not asking patients to fill in a survey or keep a food diary. This is significant surgery that requires major re-operation in one in five cases.

In more than half of the recipients, it does not result in significant weight loss. At most, it has only a two in five chance of causing a remission of Type II Diabetes (for up to nine years). And even according to the lastest research funded by Allergan, patients only gain 1.2 years of life expectancy. To put these trial recipients through all of this for research purposes is questionable. But to do it as part of a lobbying exercise is outrageous.

If Monash's Centre for Obesity Research is really that concerned about the rate of diabetes in indigenous Australians, how about spending some time and money looking at the fact that they consume twice as much soft drink as the rest of the population? Oh that's right, silly me. No one's going to pay them to do that.

the fructose factor .....

from Crikey .....

Why fructose-laden drinks when there's a healthy option on tap?

David Gillespie, lawyer and author of "Sweet Poison, why sugar makes us fat" writes:

When I was a kid, I was able to sit in a classroom for an hour (or even two) without requiring rehydration. Adults were able to go for a walk without toting a drink bottle. And the only reason to carry water in a car was to refill the radiator.

When did we become a nation requiring constant hydration? Somehow we have all come to believe that drinking is a core part of being healthy. Kidney Health Australia helped propagate the message that we should all be drinking eight glasses of water a day. And even the official dietary guidelines chimed in to tell us that we should be getting two litres a day. Unsurprisingly, they got plenty of support from water authorities and bottled water manufacturers.

Unfortunately, there is no scientific basis whatsoever for such a recommendation. Hydration has nothing to do with kidney health. It turns out that high blood pressure and diabetes are the primary risks to our kidney health. And we're suffering more than ever before. End stage kidney disease (the bit just before you die) in men increased by 31% between 2000 and 2007 (19% for women). And because you can get by on just 10% kidney function without showing symptoms, most kidney disease goes undiagnosed.

But try as they might, Kidney Health Australia is having difficulty stuffing the drink-water-for-kidney-health genie back in the bottle. We love a health message that encourages us to do something we were going to do anyway. We're even keener to do it if we can convince ourselves it's cool.

OK, we weren't going to drink two litres of water a day (well, not after the first day). But we pretty quickly convinced ourselves that any drink counted. As long as we were getting the required fluid volume. Big Sugar was more than happy to help us with our self delusion.

Coca-Cola, for example, has a special site dedicated to letting us know that "water* plays many important roles in the body". The asterisk is there to remind us that "it's not just plain drinking water that contributes to hydration" (just in case you temporarily forgotten they've got some sugary stuff to sell to you).

But there probably aren't too many people who believe a bottle of Coke is really health food (with the possible exception of Kerry Armstrong). It's much more of a problem when this kind of intentional deception sneaks into the marketing of children's drinks.

School canteens don't sell soft drinks these days. And schools certainly don't encourage children to sip Pepsi throughout the day. They don't do it because the various state health authorities have declared soft drinks to be too full of sugar to be safely consumed by children. Instead they sell water. No, not plain old boring tap water. It's water, but "fun".

Wacky Water and Play Sports Water have the school canteen market sown up. They're  made by P&N Beverages and the lead line from the Wacky Water website sums up its approach to the market. It says "Do you find drinking the amount of water that nutritionists recommend difficult?"

Both drinks are targeted firmly at worried parents. They fret that little Hermione and Reginald are dehydrated (and their kidneys are on the verge of packing it in) but they know they have Buckley's of getting them to drink enough water. Solution: Wacky, Sporty, Water.

These waters are sweetened with pure fructose. Somehow this counts as neither added sugar (which it is) nor artificial sweetener (which it also is) by the time it gets onto the Fun, Wacky, Sporty labels of these bottles of (what looks like) pure fresh water (they leave the colouring out for some reason). Education departments are happy that everyone is being healthy. Parents feel less guilty. And kids can't believe they're actually being encouraged to drink this stuff.

A 500ml bottle of Sports Water delivers 21g of pure fructose to the thirsty child. To get that much fructose from sugar, you'd have to chow down on 10 teaspoons of the white gold.

Inconveniently, it seems that all that natural fructose causes chronic kidney disease. So these waters are not exactly having the desired effect.

A study released last month confirmed that fructose directly causes high blood pressure. It does this by raising uric acid levels in the blood. High uric acid levels are known to cause kidney disease, as is the high blood pressure itself. Eighty per cent of patients with failed kidneys have high blood pressure.

Every day in Australia seven new patients are added to the list of people requiring dialysis or transplantation of failed kidneys and the rate is accelerating. One in 10  deaths are now as a result of kidney disease. What are these numbers going to look like by the time the kids we're stuffing with fructose wear out their kidneys?

Our children will drink water when they are thirsty. So make sure there is water available in the playground. But every day that fructose-laden drinks are sold as water adds more kids to the back of the queue for a new kidney.

Fructose is deadly. There is no justification for selling it to our children as health food. It's time our governments (and those they pay to care) pulled the pin on this disgusting display of corporate greed at the expense of children's health.

sweet poison .....

New research confirms what consumers have long known - most breakfast cereals advertised to children are full of sugar.

Cereals marketed to kids have 85 percent more sugar, 65 percent less fiber and 60 percent more sodium than those aimed at adults. In fact, the least nutritious cereals are often the most heavily marketed to children, such as Reese's Puffs, Corn Pops, Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Cap'n Crunch.

Some cereals with the poorest ratings even have health claims on the box.

According to Cereal FACTS (Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score), which was developed based on the best available science, in consultation with a steering committee of experts in nutrition, marketing, and public health, the 10 worst breakfast cereals based on nutrition score are:

  1. Kellogg - Corn Pops (or Pops) - Chocolate Peanut Butter
  2. Quaker - Cap'n Crunch - w/ Crunchberries
  3. Kellogg - Special K - Chocolatey Delight
  4. Kellogg - Special K - Blueberry
  5. General Mills - Reese's Puffs
  6. General Mills - Fiber One - Caramel Delight
  7. Kellogg - Cocoa Krispies - Choconilla
  8. General Mills - Golden Grahams
  9. General Mills - Cinnamon Toast Crunch
  10. Kellogg - Corn Pops

the smoking corn cob .....

You've heard it before: a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. If people are fat, it's their own fault for eating too much.

These words are usually spouted by PR hacks for the corn refiner's association - or the dietitians paid by them. They may not, as it turns out, be true.

We finally have the smoking corn cob, as it were: the study processed-food foes have been waiting for, indicating that high fructose corn syrup may be the cause of the huge upswing in childhood obesity and diabetes.

American consumption of all sugars is much higher than it should be for our health, but high fructose corn syrup has become a larger share of our sugar consumption due to the fact that much of our ingestion of this super cheap, highly processed sugar is involuntary. That's because it's not just used as a sweetener in cookies and sodas but as a food additive in things like bread, ketchup and other condiments, pasta sauce and coatings for frozen fried foods.

fruit loops .....

Kellogg has just petitioned the European Food Safety Authority to be allowed to put claims for weight loss on its breakfast cereals: "Ready-to-eat breakfast cereal can help to reduce body weight, can help to reduce body fat, can help to reduce waist circumference."

Do you think they mean Froot Loops?

Kellogg is always way ahead of the curve on health claims.  What is especially creative about this one is that the company is filing the claim through "article 13.5," which means that the "science still remains proprietary and does not require disclosure through this process.  A Kellogg official explained:

As we understand article 13.5, five years after approval of the health claim, the wording can then can be used by other cereal manufacturers but our scientific data does not have to be made public.

EFSA, I hope, will turn this one down flat.  I want to see the science before believing that breakfast cereals are diet products.  Sure they are, if you eat just one serving for breakfast, use one more to substitute for a meal, and then eat a small meal.  That would work.  But so would chocolate bars.

Food Politics.

a fat virus?...

Now scientists at the University of California, San Diego, have found that children who showed evidence of infection with adenovirus 36 were more likely to be fat. In tests on 124 children aged eight to 18, the virus was present in more than 20 per cent of those who were obese, compared with less than 6 per cent of the rest. Among those infected with adenovirus 36, four out of five were obese.

Children carrying the virus weighed on average almost 50lb more than those who were not. Among the obese children, who accounted for half the total, those with the virus weighed on average 35lb more than the rest.

Jeffrey Schwimmer, an associate professor of clinical paediatrics, who led the study published in the US journal Pediatrics, said: "This amount of extra weight is a major concern at any age, but is especially so for a child. Obesity can be a marker for future health problems like heart disease, liver disease and diabetes. An extra 35lb to 50lb is more than enough to greatly increase those risks.


Gus: one of the problem with these studies is what comes first: The FAT or the VIRUS? For example is it possible that the virus is attracted to fat people whose immune system is not as efficient?...