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   WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is using ads that depict yellow teeth and wrinkled skin to show the nation's at-risk youth the costs associated with cigarette smoking.
   The federal agency said Tuesday it is launching a $115 million multimedia education campaign called "The Real Cost" that's aimed at stopping teenagers from smoking and encouraging them to quit.
   Advertisements will run in more than 200 markets throughout the U.S. for at least one year beginning Feb. 11. The campaign will include ads on TV stations such as MTV and print spots in magazines like Teen Vogue. It also will use social media.
   "Our kids are the replacement customers for the addicted adult smokers who die or quit each day," said Mitch Zeller, the director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products. "And that's why we think it's so important to reach out to them — not to lecture them, not to throw statistics at them — but to reach them in a way that will get them to rethink their relationship with tobacco use."
   Zeller, who oversaw the anti-tobacco "Truth" campaign while working at the nonprofit American Legacy Foundation time in the early 2000s, called the new campaign a "compelling, provocative and somewhat graphic way" of grabbing the attention of more than 10 million young people ages 12 to 17 that are open to, or are already experimenting with, cigarettes.
   According to the FDA, nearly 90 percent of adult smokers started using cigarettes by age 18 and more than 700 kids under 18 become daily smokers each day. The agency aims to reduce the number of youth cigarette smokers by at least 300,000 within three years.
   "While most teens understand the serious health risks associated with tobacco use, they often don't believe the long-term consequences will ever apply to them," said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. "We'll highlight some of the real costs and health consequences associated with tobacco use by focusing on some of the things that really matter to teens — their outward appearance and having control and independence over their lives."
   Two of the TV ads show teens walking into a corner store to buy cigarettes. When the cashier tells them it's going to cost them more than they have, the teens proceed to tear off a piece of their skin and use pliers to pull out a tooth in order to pay for their cigarettes. Other ads portray cigarettes as a man dressed in a dirty white shirt and khaki pants bullying teens and another shows teeth being destroyed by a ray gun shooting cigarettes.
   The FDA is evaluating the impact of the campaign by following 8,000 people between the ages of 11 and 16 for two years to assess changes in tobacco-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviors.
   The campaign announced Tuesday is the first in a series of campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of tobacco use.
   In 2011, the FDA said it planned to spend about $600 million over five years on the campaigns aimed at reducing death and disease caused by tobacco, which is responsible for about 480,000 deaths a year in the U.S.
   Tobacco companies are footing the bill for the campaigns through fees charged by the FDA under a 2009 law that gave the agency authority over the tobacco industry.
   Future campaigns will target young adults ages 18-24 and people who influence teens, including parents, family members and peers. Other audiences of special interest include minorities, gays, people with disabilities, the military, pregnant women, people living in rural areas, and low-income people.
Published in Health & Fitness
Friday, 24 January 2014 04:23

FDA to revise nutrition facts label

WASHINGTON (AP) — Those nutrition labels on the back of food packages may soon become easier to read.
 
The Food and Drug Administration says knowledge about nutrition has evolved over the last 20 years, and the labels need to reflect that.
 
As the agency considers revisions, nutritionists and other health experts have their own wish list of desired changes.
 
The number of calories should be more prominent, they say, and the amount of added sugar and percentage of whole wheat in the food should be included. They also want more clarity on how serving sizes are defined.
 
"There's a feeling that nutrition labels haven't been as effective as they should be," says Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "When you look at the label, there are roughly two dozen numbers of substances that people aren't intuitively familiar with."
 
For example, he says, most of the nutrients are listed in grams, the metric system's basic unit of mass. Jacobson says people don't really understand what a gram is.
 
Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods, says 20 years ago "there was a big focus on fat, and fat undifferentiated." Since then, health providers have focused more on calories and warned people away from saturated and trans fats more than all fats. Trans fats were separated out on the label in 2006.
 
The nutrition facts label "is now 20 years old, the food environment has changed and our dietary guidance has changed," says Taylor, who was at the agency in the early 1990s when the FDA first introduced the label at the behest of Congress. "It's important to keep this updated so what is iconic doesn't become a relic."
 
The FDA has sent guidelines for the new labels to the White House, but Taylor would not estimate when they might be released. The FDA has been working on the issue for a decade, he said.
 
There's evidence that more people are reading the labels in recent years.
 
According to an Agriculture Department study released this month, a greater percentage of adults reported using the nutrition facts panel and other claims on food packages "always or most of the time" in 2009 and 2010 compared with two years earlier.
 
The USDA study said 42 percent of working adults used the panel always or most of the time in 2009 and 2010, up from 34 percent. Older adults used it 57 percent of the time during that period, up from 51 percent.
 
One expected change in the label is to make the calorie listing more prominent, and Regina Hildwine of the Grocery Manufacturers Association said that could be useful to consumers. Her group represents the nation's largest food companies.
 
Hildwine said FDA also has suggested that it may be appropriate to remove the "calories from fat" declaration on the label.
 
It's not yet clear what other changes the FDA could decide on. Nutrition advocates are hoping the agency adds a line for sugars and syrups that are not naturally occurring in foods and drinks and are added when they are processed or prepared. Right now, some sugars are listed separately among the ingredients and some are not.
 
It may be difficult for the FDA to figure out how to calculate added sugars, however. Food manufacturers are adding naturally occurring sugars to their products so they can label them as natural — but the nutrition content is no different.
 
Other suggestions from health advocates:
 
— Add the percentage of whole wheat to the label. Many manufacturers will label products "whole wheat" when there is really only a small percentage of it in the food.
 
— Clearer measurements. Jacobson of CSPI and others have suggested that the FDA use teaspoons, as well as grams, for added sugars, since consumers can envision a teaspoon.
 
— Serving sizes that make sense. There's no easy answer, but health experts say that single-size servings that are clearly meant to be eaten in one sitting will often list two or three servings on the label, making the calorie and other nutrient information deceptive. FDA said last year that it may add another column to the labels, listing nutrition information per serving and per container. The agency may also adjust recommended serving sizes for some foods.
 
— Package-front labeling. Beyond the panel on the back, nutrition experts have pushed for labels on the package front for certain nutrients so consumers can see them more easily. The FDA said several years ago it would issue guidelines for front of pack labeling, but later said it would hold off to see whether the industry could create its own labels.
 
Tracy Fox, a Washington-based nutrition consultant, says clearer information is needed to balance the billions of dollars a year that the food industry spends on food marketing.
 
"There's a lot of information there, it's messy," she says. "There may be a way to call out certain things and put them in context."
Published in Health & Fitness

Senator Dick Durbin and other Democrats are asking energy drink companies not to market to children. The Illinois Democrat and his colleagues sent letters to 17 energy drink companies asking that they voluntarily list, on the label, the amount of caffeine in a product as well as any adverse events associated with consuming the drinks.  Earlier this year, Senator Durbin co-authored a report entitled “What’s all the Buzz about?” which highlighted the inconsistencies in the labeling and classification of energy drinks. The report found high levels of caffeine in the energy drinks that exceeded what is considered safe in soda by the Food and Drug Administration. The report also found that adolescent consumers are frequent targets for the marketing pitches of energy drink companies. Product design and placement on store shelves help to create product images that appeal to children and teens. 

 

Published in Local News

   WASHINGTON (AP) - Looking for a new way to get that jolt of caffeine energy? Food companies are betting snacks like potato chips, jelly beans and gum with a caffeinated kick could be just the answer.

   The Food and Drug Administration is closely watching the marketing of these foods and wants to know more about their safety.

   The FDA said Monday it will look at the foods' effects on children in response to a caffeinated gum introduced this week by Wrigley. Alert Energy Gum promises "the right energy, right now."

   The agency is already investigating the safety of energy drinks and energy shots, prompted by consumer reports of illness and death.

 

A few products that have added caffeine:

— Wrigley Alert Energy Gum contains about 40 milligrams a piece, or the equivalent amount found in half a cup of coffee.

— Jelly Belly Extreme Sport Beans have 50 mg of caffeine in a 100-calorie pack.

— Arma Energy Snx markets chips, trail mix and other products that contain caffeine, including "chocolate caramel cookie caffeine mix."

— Wired Waffles sells caffeinated maple syrup and "energy waffles."

— Some varieties of Frito-Lay's Cracker Jack'd Power Bites are coated wafers that include two tablespoons of ground coffee.

— Kraft's Mio Energy "water enhancer" squirts caffeine and flavoring into water.

 
 
Published in Health & Fitness
WASHINGTON (AP) — Diners will have to wait a little longer to find calorie counts on most restaurant chain menus, in supermarkets and on vending machines.

The head of the Food and Drug Administration says writing a new menu labeling law "has gotten extremely thorny" as the agency tries to figure out who should be covered by it.

The 2010 health care law charged the FDA with requiring restaurants and other establishments that serve food to put calorie counts on menus and in vending machines. The agency issued a proposed rule in 2011, but the final rules have since been delayed as some non-restaurant establishments have lobbied hard to be exempt.

The FDA has said the rules may come out this spring, but the agency may not meet that deadline.
Published in Health & Fitness

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