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Prevention Institute

Prevention Institute alert: February 24, 2015

How Menu Labeling Could Spark Change Beyond the Menu Board

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about catalyzing changes that prevent illness in the first place, it’s that passage of a single policy can be like lighting a match—illuminating the way towards strategies with greater impact and igniting the energy of leaders.
                                              – Larry Cohen & Juliet Sims

Our current Health Affairs blog post explores how new nationwide menu labeling standards—set to take effect later this year—can spark conversations and change norms, thus paving the way for future policies that improve the US food landscape. 

The new menu labeling regulation will apply to fast-food and sit-down restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores, and movie theaters, and will take effect on December 1, 2015. Once implemented, calorie counts will be posted for all items (including alcoholic drinks) on menus and menu boards, as well as on display tags for salad bars, bakery items, and soda dispensers. A companion rule requiring calorie labeling for vending machines will take effect in 2016.

Over at the Health Affairs blog, Prevention Institute’s Larry Cohen and Juliet Sims discuss how…

… consumer education, and the debates accompanying it, can catalyze attention to and coalition building around an issue. The success of the labeling law signals that norms change is underway—and that understanding and attitudes about junk food marketing are shifting. It is a significant victory in pointing out—and garnering nationwide publicity about—the fact that unhealthy food outside of homes is a pressing problem and that national action is necessary. As the public and policymakers become more informed and aware of the poor nutritional quality of food in most food service establishments, the role of the food, beverage, and restaurant industries in allowing profits to drive diet-related disease becomes more visible.

This leads to the questions of what can be done and what should we do next. It is not only the direct impact of the menu labeling policy, but its contribution to broader norms change and momentum for more impactful policy change that lays the foundation for substantive improvements in the nutritional quality of the foods that are promoted and sold in the U.S.

Read the rest at Health Affairs.

Watch "We're Not Buying It"

Watch and share our two-minute video, which reveals the lengths food industries go to promoting unhealthy foods to kids, including advertising in their classrooms. A Spanish-language version, “No nos la tragamos” is also available.

Setting the Record Straight

This powerful call to action, endorsed by nutrition and health professionals, sets out a definition of healthful food that "recognizes that healthful food comes from a food system where food is produced, processed, transported, and marketed in ways that are environmentally sound, sustainable and just." Read the rest.

Two new books highlight when policy meets profit

Prevention Institute’s Larry Cohen reviews two new books that take a hard look at the role of industry in driving poor health and injury: Deborah Cohen’s A Big Fat Crisis: The Hidden Forces Behind The Obesity Epidemic—And How We Can End It and Nicholas Freudenberg’s Lethal But Legal: Corporations, Consumption, And Protecting Public Health.

Call for Grant Application Reviewers

100 Million Healthier Lives is seeking grant application reviewers for its first major initiative, SCALE (Spreading Community Accelerators through Learning and Evaluation), which promotes community-driven approaches to improve health. Please email bio and CV to 100MLives@ihi.org by March 4.

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