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FOOD COMPANIES CUT 6.4 TRILLION CALORIES

Thursday, 09 January 2014 08:20 Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some of the nation's largest food companies have cut calories in their products by more than 6.4 trillion, according to a new study.

The study sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found between 2007 and 2012 the companies reduced their products' calories by the equivalent of around 78 calories per person per day. The total is more than four times the amount those companies had pledged to cut by next year.

Seventy-eight calories would be about the same as an average cookie or a medium apple, and the federal government estimates an average daily diet at around 2,000 calories. The study said the calories cut averaged out to 78 calories per day for the entire U.S. population.

The 2010 pledge taken by 16 companies - including General Mills Inc., Campbell Soup Co., ConAgra Foods Inc., Kraft Foods Inc., Kellogg Co., Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Hershey Co. - was to cut 1 trillion calories by 2012 and 1.5 trillion calories by 2015.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation signed on to hold the companies accountable, and that group hired researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to painstakingly count the calories in almost every single packaged item in the grocery store. To do that, the UNC researchers used the store-based scanner data of hundreds of thousands of foods, commercial databases and nutrition facts panels to calculate exactly how many calories the companies were selling.

The researchers aren't yet releasing the entire study, but they said Thursday that the companies have exceeded their own goals by a wide margin.

Dr. James Marks, director of the Health Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said the group is pleased with the results but the companies "must sustain that reduction, as they've pledged to do, and other food companies should follow their lead."

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a nonpartisan philanthropic and research organization that works to improve the nation's health.

Even though the companies that made the commitment represent most of the nation's most well-known food companies, they sold only around a third of all packaged foods and beverages at the beginning of the study. Missing are many off-label brands sold under the names of retailers, and it's unknown whether those products have changed.

It is also unclear how the reduction in calories translates into consumers' diets. When the companies made the pledge in 2010, they said one way they would try and reduce calories would be to change portion sizes in an attempt to persuade consumers to eat less. The companies also said that they would develop new lower-calorie options and change existing products so they have fewer calories.

Evidence of those efforts are visible on any grocery store shelf. Many products now come in lower calorie versions, are baked instead of fried, or sold in miniature as well as larger versions.

Marks says he believes that companies' efforts to package smaller servings - 100 calorie packs of popular snacks, for example - and smaller cans of sugary drinks may have contributed to the reduction in calories. He says the main contributors most likely were the public's increasing willingness to buy healthier foods and companies responding to those consumers.

The companies involved are all part of an industry coalition of food businesses called the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation that has organized to help reduce obesity. The foundation pledged to reduce the calories as part of an agreement with a group of nonprofit organizations and made the 2010 announcement as part of first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign to combat childhood obesity.

Lisa Gable of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation says the study's findings "exceeded our expectations."

She said the companies achieved the goal by coming together and also competing to make new lower-calorie foods. Market studies have shown that many of the healthier foods have outperformed other products, she said.

"This is a very significant shift in the marketplace," Gable said.

---

Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter: HTTP://TWITTER.COM/MCJALONICK

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

No. 21 Missouri 'too cool' in OT loss to Georgia

Wednesday, 08 January 2014 23:19 Published in Sports
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Frank Haith thinks his Missouri team was "too cool," and it cost the 21st-ranked Tigers the nation's longest home-court winning streak.
 
"I hate cool," the Tigers coach said Wednesday after losing 70-64 in overtime to Georgia. "We were really too cool and I don't like cool. Cool gets you beat and we got beat tonight."
 
Jabari Brown had 19 points and Earnest Ross added 15, but Ross missed a desperation 3-point attempt in the final seconds trailing 68-64. Missouri (12-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) had won 26 consecutive games at home dating back to Feb. 21, 2012, when it lost to Kansas State. In his third season, Haith lost for only the second time in 42 home games.
 
Jordan Clarkson, who missed from the top of the key at the end of regulation, had 12 points.
 
Missouri led 63-58 with 2:51 remaining in overtime after a three-point play by Ross. But Georgia's Nemanja Djurisic hit the tying 3-pointer with 1:39 to go, and Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris hit a pair of free throws apiece in the final half-minute.
 
"It's definitely going to sting, especially losing at home, but we have to have a short memory and we have to bounce back," Clarkson said. "We can't let one loss turn into two. We have to go get a road win and I know we'll come prepared to do that."
 
Missouri will face Auburn on Saturday.
 
Georgia's Charlie Mann scored 18 points, including the go-ahead basket with 35.8 seconds to go in overtime, and Djurisic finished with 16 points after tying a career high with four 3-pointers.
 
Mann pulled up in the lane before hitting the go-ahead basket less than a half-minute after Brown missed a 3.
 
The Bulldogs (7-6, 1-0) had lost consecutive road games by double digits at George Washington and Colorado and was a double-digit underdog against Missouri.
 
"We didn't have the right look about us," Haith said. "Hopefully we can learn from it. The toughness thing is something that's hard for a coach to accept. You have to compete and that's hard for me.
 
"We didn't compete."
 
Even with Morris' free throws at the end, Georgia was 13 for 26 at the line with Marcus Thornton just 1 for 6. Djurisic was 4 for 5 from 3-point range, matching his career best, after being held to four points his last game.
 
Georgia entered hitting just 65 percent from 3-point range, 12th in the conference.
 
Mann missed a 3-pointer for the lead with 24 seconds left in regulation and Clarkson held the ball before missing a bid to end it with about a second to go. Georgia ended a four-game losing streak against Missouri.
 
Missouri also was vulnerable in its previous game, trailing most of the first half before pulling away to beat Long Beach State by 10 on Saturday. The Tigers had been 4-1 trailing at the half, rallying to beat UCLA and North Carolina State, with the other loss to Illinois.
 
Missouri opened the second half on a 12-4 run and took the lead at 35-34 on another 3-pointer by Ross. Georgia went 7:10 between baskets in the second half.
 
Missouri spotted the Bulldogs eight points to start the game before settling in, and the Tigers got their first lead on a 3-pointer by Ross that made it 20-19 with about 6 minutes remaining. That lasted a half-minute before Djurisic answered with two straight 3s to key an 11-0 run that gave Georgia it's largest lead at 30-20 before Missouri finished the half with five points in a row.

ARCTIC AIR EASES ITS GRIP ON MUCH OF THE US

Wednesday, 08 January 2014 11:31 Published in National News

ATLANTA (AP) — An arctic blast eased its grip on much of the U.S. on Wednesday, with winds calming and the weather warming slightly a day after temperature records — some more than a century-old — shattered up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

In Atlanta, where a record low of 6 degrees hit early Tuesday, fountains froze over, a 200-foot Ferris wheel shut down and Southerners had to dig out winter coats, hats and gloves they almost never have to use. It shouldn't take too long to thaw out, though. The forecast Wednesday was sunny and 42 degrees.

In the Midwest and East, where brutal polar air has lingered over the past few days, temperatures climbed but were still expected to be below freezing.

In Indianapolis, Timolyn Johnson-Fitzgerald returned to her home after spending the night in a shelter with her three children because they lost power to their apartment. The water lines were working, but much of the food she bought in preparation for the storm was ruined from a combination of thawing and then freezing during the outage.

"All my eggs were cracked, the cheese and milk was frozen. And the ice cream had melted and then refroze. It's crazy, but we're just glad to be back home," she said.

On Tuesday, the mercury plunged into the single digits and teens from Boston and New York to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and Little Rock — places where many people don't know the first thing about extreme cold.

"I didn't think the South got this cold," said Marty Williams, a homeless man, originally from Chicago, who took shelter at a church in Atlanta. "That was the main reason for me to come down from up North, from the cold, to get away from all that stuff."

The cold turned deadly for some: Authorities reported at least 21 cold-related deaths across the country since Sunday, including seven in Illinois and six in Indiana. At least five people died after collapsing while shoveling snow, while several victims were identified as homeless people who either refused shelter or didn't make it to a warm haven soon enough.

In Missouri on Monday, a 1-year-old boy was killed when the car he was riding in struck a snow plow, and a 20-year-old woman was killed in a separate crash after her car slid on ice and into the path of a tractor-trailer.

In a phenomenon that forecasters said is actually not all that unusual, all 50 states saw freezing temperatures at some point Tuesday. That included Hawaii, where it was 18 degrees atop Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano.

It was 1 degree in Reading, Pa., and 2 in Trenton, N.J. New York City plummeted to 4 degrees; the old record for the date was 6, set in 1896.

"It's brutal out here," said Spunkiy Jon, who took a break from her sanitation job in New York to smoke a cigarette in the cab of a garbage truck. "Your fingers freeze off after three minutes, your cheeks feel as if you're going to get windburn, and you work as quick as you can."

Farther south, Birmingham, Ala., dipped to a low of 7, four degrees colder than the old mark, set in 1970. Huntsville, Ala., dropped to 5, Nashville, Tenn., got down to 2, and Little Rock, Ark., fell to 9. Charlotte, N.C., reached 6 degrees, breaking the 12-degree record that had stood since 1884.

The big chill started in the Midwest over the weekend, caused by a kink in the "polar vortex," the strong winds that circulate around the North Pole. The icy air covered about half the country by Tuesday, but it was moving north, returning more normal and warmer weather to most of the country. This weekend, it was expected to be in the 50s in New York and even higher in places farther south along the Eastern Seaboard.

The deep freeze dragged on in the Midwest. More than 500 Amtrak passengers were stranded overnight on three Chicago-bound trains that were stopped by blowing and drifting snow in Illinois. Food ran low, but the heat stayed on.

On Tuesday, many schools and day care centers across the eastern half of the U.S. were closed and officials opened shelters for the homeless and anyone else who needed a warm place.

With the bitter cold slowing baggage handling and aircraft refueling, airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights in the U.S., bringing the four-day total to more than 11,000.

The Lower 48 states, when averaged out, reached a low of 13.8 degrees overnight Monday, according to calculations by Ryan Maue of Weather Bell Analytics. An estimated 190 million people in the U.S. were subjected to the polar vortex's icy blast.

Still, farmers worried about their crops.

Diane Cordeau of Kai-Kai Farm in Indiantown, Fla., about 90 miles north of Miami, had to pick her squash and tomatoes Monday to beat the freeze but said her leafy vegetables, such as kale, will be sweeter and tastier because of the cold.

"I'm the queen of lettuce around here, so the colder the better," said Cordeau, whose farm serves high-end restaurants that request specific produce or organic vegetables.

PJM Interconnection, which operates the power grid that serves more than 61 million people in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and South, asked users to conserve electricity because of the cold, especially in the morning and late afternoon.

Across the South, the Tennessee Valley Authority said power demand in the morning reached the second-highest winter peak in the history of the Depression-era utility. Temperatures averaged 4 degrees across the utility's seven-state region.

In South Carolina, a large utility used 15-minute rolling blackouts to handle demand, but there were no reports of widespread outages in the South.

Natural gas demand in the U.S. set a record Tuesday, eclipsing the mark set a day earlier, according to Jack Weixel, director of energy analysis at Bentek Energy.

___

Associated Press writers Steve Karnowski and Amy Forliti in Minneapolis; David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Md.; Brett Zongker in Washington, D.C.; Brett Barrouquere in Louisville, Ky.; Melissa Nelson-Gabriel in Pensacola, Fla.; Suzette Laboy in Indiantown, Fla.; Verena Dobnik in New York; and Kelly P. Kissel in Little Rock, Ark., contributed to this report.

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