It’s HERE! National Public Health Week!

Woooo! Check out the cool events this week!


Nutrition Labels

A Makeover for Food Labels


Nearly two decades ago, Congress passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, requiring packaged foods to carry a detailed nutrition facts label.

For the most part, the label has an easy-to-follow format that lists calories, serving size and ingredients. But now the consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest wants to give the food facts label a makeover.

The center says the makeover is necessary to clarify and highlight important parts of the label and also to prevent unnecessary and misleading words from confusing consumers. Among the suggested changes to the food label:

  1. Put calorie and serving size information in larger type at the top of the label so it’s immediately clear how much you are eating.
  2. Make the ingredient list easier to read by printing it in regular type instead of all capital letters. Use bullets to separate ingredients rather than allowing them to all run together.
  3. List minor ingredients and allergens separately from the main ingredient list. Highlight allergy information in red.
  4. List similar ingredients together and show the percentage by weight. For instance, sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup and grape juice concentrate are all forms of sugar and should be listed in parenthesis under the catchall heading “sugars.”
  5. Use red labeling and the word “high” when a product has more than 20 percent of the daily recommendation for fats, sugars, sodium or cholesterol.
  6. Make it clear which sugars are added to the product versus those that occur naturally.
  7. Display prominently the percentage of whole grains contained in a product.
  8. List caffeine content.

To look at an example of the suggested changes, click on the image above.

I was especially surprised by how much easier it is to read the ingredient list when lower case letters and bullets are used. I also liked the larger calorie information at the top of the label.

To learn more about the history of food labeling, here’s an interesting timeline from the Fooducate blog. And to learn more about the C.S.P.I. report, click here.

What do you think of the proposed label changes? Do you have suggestions for improving the food facts label?

PE for the obese

Do your relatives comment on your weight every time they see you? (chuckle) That’s unfortunate. What if someone suggested you take a fitness class to help with your weight? Yup, that’s right. PE. I guess that’s what students at Lincoln University (in PA) are facing – except it’s less of a suggestion and more of a mandatory PE class if you want your diploma. But if your BMI was 30 or above, would you accept that you’d have to go to PE every week?

As I was browsing through Yahoo Shine (their “Healthy Living” section), I came across this article here by Sarah Jio (Vitamin G, Glamour Magazine). I’ve copied and pasted it below.

Lincoln University in Pennsylvania created a mandate for obese students: If you’re overweight, you must take a fitness class–or else no diploma.

Here’s how it works: The university requires that incoming students get tested for body mass index, which correlates to height and weight. Students with BMIs 30 or above–considered obese–are required to take a 3-hour-a-week class called “Fitness for Life.”

According to the AP, Tiana Lawson, a 21-year-old senior, wrote in this week’s edition of The Lincolnian, the student newspaper, that she “didn’t come to Lincoln to be told that my weight is not in an acceptable range. I came here to get an education.”

She says she feels that larger students are being “singled out.” Yet, a University spokesperson said its only trying to help. “We know we’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic,” said James L. DeBoy, chairman of Lincoln’s department of health, physical education and recreation. “We have an obligation to address this head on, knowing full well there’s going to be some fallout.”

The Krispy Kreme Challenge

I saw this story on ESPN a few weeks ago about the Krispy Kreme Challenge that they have at UNC. It made me think: is this the best charity run ever or perhaps a public health disaster in the making?

Discuss amongst yourselves…

The Great Nutrition Facts Debate

An op-ed by Haley Hogan in today’s Yale Daily News argues that the nutrition facts in the Yale College dining halls are unnecessary and may contribute to eating disorders:

For a surprisingly large number of undergraduates, the nutrition facts glare up at them like dangerous temptations feeding their obsessive thoughts about food, weight and thinness, instigating a battle with numbers and calorie counting that can devolve into the life-threatening diseases of anorexia, bulimia and anorexia athletica. Given that college is a hotbed of eating disorders, Yale should remove these number-heavy signposts from the dining halls and encourage students to develop healthful, intuitive eating habits.

What do you think?

In full disclosure, I wrote an op-ed in the YDN about the topic several years ago to advocate for adding nutrition facts in the first place (which they did!). It generated a ton of controversy though (see here, here and here!)

This past fall there was another spate of articles on the topic: Arguing for and against.

The YDN may not be published any more this semester, but that doesn’t mean we can’t debate it on the blog.


Food Policy Panel A Success!

On Wednesday afternoon, Public Health Coalition Member groups YHHAP and Yale Sustainable Food Project helped put together a panel about the intersection of Food Policy, Sustainable Agriculture and Public Health in New Haven. The Panel featured Anastatia Curley, Communications Coordinator for the Yale Sustainable Food Project and Diana Richter, Executive Director of the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen and member of the New Haven Food Policy Council. The event was a lively discussion about eating locally and organically in tough times, the challenges of feeding large numbers of financially unstable familes, and possibilities for changing our nation’s food system.

Both the Yale Sustainable Food Project and the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen are always looking for volunteers for a variety of projects. You can learn more about these organizations at the following websites:

Yale Sustainable Food Project

Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen

New Haven Food Policy Council

Yale Kicks off NPHW with an awesome panel on community health

  1. TODAY! National Public Health Week

    Date/Time: Monday, April 6 – Sunday, April 12
    Since 1995, communities across the U.S. have celebrated National Public Health Week to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving the public‘s health.

    Below are details on a panel discussion sponsored by the Office of Community Health, Yale School of Public Health:

    Perspectives on Public Health Disparities in CT
    Date: Monday, April 6, 3:30 PM
    Moderator: Paul D. Cleary, Ph.D., Dean, YSPH
    Panelists: Ellen Andrews, Ph.D., Connie Malave-Branyan, M.P.H., Edith Pestana, M.P.H., Eric Triffin, M.P.H.
    Location: YSPH, Room 101, 60 College St, New Haven, CT

    Reception to immediately follow panel.