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Posts Tagged ‘Center for Science in the Public Interest’

Restaurants With ‘Xtreme’ Menu Items Are Doing Long-Term Damage (To Their Business)


The Center for Science in the Public Interest has released its 2014 Xtreme Eating Awards and topping the list with a 3,540 calorie meal consisting of a “Monster” double burger and milkshake with a bottomless order of fries is Red Robin.

“[I]t’s the ‘single unhealthiest’ meal the group could find on more than 200 chain restaurant menus it reviewed…” says USA Today.

Also on the list three times is The Cheesecake Factory. And there’s Chevys Tex Mex with a combo plate, a seafood platter from Joe’s Crab Shack, ribs from Famous Dave’s and a deep-dish ranch pizza from BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse.

Restaurants appearing on the list that spoke with the newspaper counter that there are low-calorie options on their menu for those that want them. Red Robin’s SVP and CMO, Denny Marie Post, says that colossal meal is a mixture of their menu’s “most indulgent” items.

All of this might be true, but that’s not what’s getting the media attention. These chains are making a name for themselves for having the most fattening and unhealthy dishes. That can have a negative long-term effect.

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Health Organizations Shame Katy Perry for Repping Pepsi

The Sellouts - YouTubeKids love celebrities. Kids also love sweet treats. It’s a match made in marketing heaven, which is why soda and celebrity have gone hand-in-hand since Marilyn Monroe was sipping Coke in black-and-white.

In today’s health-conscious atmosphere, however, the star/soft drink marriage is drawing some serious ire from health organizations focused on tackling America’s obesity epidemic. The latest target of that ire is Pepsi-pushing pop star Katy Perry.

A group of seven health organizations, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, will run an open letter to the starlet today in Variety, urging her not to “exploit [your] popularity by marketing a product that causes disease in your fans.”

The letter draws parallels between the ramifications of marketing soda to children and those of marketing cigarettes to children.

“Virginia Slims and other tobacco companies used glamorous celebrities and models to position smoking as hip, sexy and rebellious. Today soda companies are using you and other celebrities to convince young people that drinking soda is hip, sexy and rebellious.”

The letter goes on to impress upon the star the weighty responsibility she has acquired along with her enormous fame and popularity among America’s youth: Read more

Taco Bell Drops Kids’ Meals from Menu

The marketing of fast food to children has been a hot topic in our increasingly health-conscious society as of late, with everyone from politicians to organizations like the Center for Science in the Public Interest weighing in on the touchy subject. It is in this environment that Taco Bell has made the decision to stop carrying kids’ meals, and is touting itself as the first national fast food chain to make this pioneering change.

While advocacy groups may be pleased with Taco Bell’s decision, it seems the chain is making this move less for moral reasons, and more for simple financial and branding ones.

The main incentive for dropping kids’ meals is that they don’t really jive with the chain’s core customers — the younger portion of the millennial demographic (i.e. bored high-schoolers and drunk college kids). In fact, kids’ meals represent a mere 0.5% of its sales, according to the company (compared to McDonald’s, where Happy Meals account for about 10% of U.S. sales).

“As we continue our journey of being a better, more relevant Taco Bell, kid’s meals and toys simply no longer make sense for us to put resources behind,” said Greg Creed, CEO of Taco Bell, in a statement. “What does make sense is concentrating on expanding choices that meet and exceed the diverse needs of consumers of all ages, without losing focus on what makes us great today.” Read more

Worst Meal In America? Long John Silver’s Says The Big Catch Is Delicious

The Big Catch

On this day when the rest of us are preparing for some time off, the PR team at Long John Silver’s must be hard at work.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has declared the fast food chain’s Big Catch “the worst meal in America.” The Big Catch is a battered and fried piece of haddock fish and two side dishes. The side dish choices are green beans, hush puppies, onion rings, coleslaw, French fries, rice or corn.

Lab tests on the meal with the onion rings and hush puppies show that it has 33 grams of trans fat (more than two weeks worth), 19 grams of saturated fat, 3,700 milligrams of sodium, and 1,320 calories. My stomach hurts just typing that.

The CSPI says the restaurant isn’t completely honest about the nutritional facts of this meal; their claims that there’s seven to eight ounces of fish in the Big Catch are wrong. Rather it’s “60% haddock, 40% butter and grease.” Now I’m gagging.

In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, the restaurant said, “Long John Silver’s offers a variety of meal choices including baked fish and shrimp that can satisfy almost every diner’s dietary choices. We stand behind our published food data and will review any requests from CSPI that raise questions about our data.”

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Should Brands Always Follow Suggested Standards?

When a company’s primary audience is under the age of 12, will the public expect that company to promote only products and behaviors deemed “healthy” by third-party standards or trust it to develop its own?

To put it another way: does Cookie Monster really need to eat vegetables?

Senators and advocacy groups pushing to limit snack food ads on kids’ programs celebrated last year when The Walt Disney Company, partnering with Michelle Obama‘s “Let’s Move” anti-obesity campaign, promised to stop running spots for foods that don’t meet suggested federal nutrition standards by 2015. Disney’s chairman said the decision was “about smart business.”

Despite pressure to follow suit, Nickelodeon has chosen to continue using its own internal benchmarks—which earned praise from the same senators and advocacy groups—when deciding which food ads to run.

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Marketed to Adults, but Hurting Kids? FDA Launches Investigation Into Foods With Added Caffeine

Once upon a time, when a person needed a morning jump-start or a midday pick-me-up, they reached for a cup of coffee. These days, though, coffee has some serious competition; weary folks can now choose from an array of amped-up foodstuffs, including gum, concentrated energy shots, candy, and even caffeinated Cracker Jacks.

Michael Taylor, the FDA‘s deputy commissioner of foods, said that the only time the FDA explicitly approved the practice of adding caffeine to a food or drink was in the 1950s when it allowed the stimulant to be included in cola. The current prevalence of caffeine-filled foods is “beyond anything FDA envisioned,” Taylor said. “It is disturbingWe’re concerned about whether they have been adequately evaluated.”

The governing body is especially concerned when it comes to the effects of such foods on children; while kids aren’t likely to seek out a boring cup of joe, they may be more apt to grab a bag of jolt-inducing jelly beans. The American Academy of Pediatrics has linked caffeine to harmful effects on young people’s still-developing neurological and cardiovascular systems. So, while the FDA is already investigating the safety of energy drinks and energy shots (thanks to consumer reports of illness and death), the organization has decided to go a step further and look specifically at the foods’ effects on children.

Companies that manufacture and market caffeinated foods say that their products are intended for — and marketed to — adults. Wrigley, which recently released Alert Energy Gum (40 milligrams of caffeine per piece), pointed out that packages of the gum are labeled “for adult use only.” A spokesperson for the company said, “Millions of Americans consume caffeine responsibly and in moderation as part of their daily routines.”

While that may be, critics say it’s not enough for companies to say they are marketing the products to adults, who are capable of making more informed decisions about the amount of caffeine they consume, when the foods themselves are clearly attractive (and readily available) to children. In a letter to the FDA, Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said of such foods: “One serving of any of these foods isn’t likely to harm anyone. The concern is that it will be increasingly easy to consume caffeine throughout the day, sometimes unwittingly, as companies add caffeine to candies, nuts, snacks and other foods.”

In acknowledgement that the consumption of one caffeinated item may not cause adverse effects, the probe will focus on the effects of added caffeine in its totality, and whether the increasing number of caffeinated products on the market might mean more adverse health effects for children.

Coca-Cola To America: ‘Yes, We’re Making You Fat’

Vintage Coca-Cola machineThe biggest story in the global branding game over the past few months was the innovative partnership between Pepsi and Beyoncé–a deal that gives an unprecedented degree of creative power to the world’s biggest pop star. Mark Bittman may not think it’s OK for celebrities to sell soda, but that won’t stop Pepsi’s new frontwoman from dominating America’s biggest PR stunt, The Super Bowl.*

One thing you almost certainly won’t hear Beyoncé discussing in 2013: the relationship between soft drinks and obesity. A certain other soda, on the other hand, just announced plans to address the issue directly.

This surprises us as much as anybody, but Pepsico‘s mortal enemy Coca-Cola just took a first step into the public health fray by creating a campaign designed to address America’s obesity epidemic–all in the company’s own best interests, of course.

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PR Kerfuffle Over Caffeinated ‘Cracker Jacks’

Fans of Cracker Jacks will soon find something other than temporary tattoos, cheap trinkets and miniature games hidden in their sweet and salty treat bags: a jolt of caffeine.

Not thrilled with the idea of your little tikes loading up on “jacked up” cracker jacks and bouncing off the walls? Fear not! PepsiCo (parent company of Cracker Jack makers Frito-Lay) assures us that it will only market the soon-to-be-released Cracker Jack’d Power Bites to adults. Not buying it? Neither is the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which charges that the planned snack violates federal food regulations.

In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration, CSPI argued that “Caffeine is generally recognized as safe only in cola-type beverages and only at concentrations of 0.02% or less (about 72 mg per 12 oz.).”

When asked about these allegations, a Frito-Lay spokesman told Ad Age that Power Bites will include “two flavors that will contain coffee, a natural source of caffeine, as an ingredient…We stand by the safety of all products in the Cracker Jack’d line, including those that contain coffee. It is worth pointing out the regulation referenced in CSPI’s letter to FDA speaks to caffeine–not coffee–and is not an exhaustive list of the safe uses of caffeine in foods and beverages.”

The FDA wasn’t the only organization to receive a strongly-worded note from CSPI.

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‘Real’ Polar Bears with Diabetes Take on Coca-Cola Fakers

We’re all familiar with those famously cute ‘n cuddly Coca-Cola ads starring the CGI polar bears that cast the classic soda as a symbol of unity, pure joy, and holiday cheer. But sugary soft drinks have been gaining a distinctly negative reputation as of late thanks to highly-publicized links to weight gain and other health problems. What was once a personal dietary choice has become a stigmatized, politicized issue, resulting in everything from honest labeling campaigns to anti-soda legislation.

Now, in an effort to remind the public that over-consumption of soda leads less to joy and world peace and more to diabetes and obesity, Ad Man Alex Bogusky has partnered with the Center for Science in the Public Interest to create a decidedly disturbing parody of Coke’s polar bear ads. The below video, titled “The Real Bears,”, features many things viewers have come to expect from the classic ads, including fuzzy-faced creatures wearing scarves, a winter wonderland backdrop, and even an overly-cheerful song (in this case courtesy of Jason Mraz).

But unless we’re mistaken, we don’t remember insulin-filled syringes and references to erectile dysfunction in the original commercials. Let’s just put it this way — if you’d like your childhood memories of the Coca-Cola bears to remain sweet and untarnished, you’ll probably want to skip the video… Read more

The Lawyers Are Coming for Your Food Biz Clients

What do the phrases “organic” and “all-natural” mean to you as a consumer? Does the fact that Sun Chips have that great “whole grain taste” make you more likely to eat them in the interest of your own health?

While the vast majority of consumers want to eat well, a recent survey conducted by iModerate Research Technologies confirms the fact that most don’t have enough information to make truly educated decisions regarding the food they buy—and that leaves them more vulnerable to dubious claims made by marketing teams and ad agencies.

In the eyes of the law, these questionable taglines might not mean much, and they may even qualify as “misleading.” But do they amount to bad PR practices or grounds for lawsuits? According to a recent story in The New York Times, a group of very successful litigators thinks they do—and they plan to raise a big stink about it.

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