Tag Archives: center for science in the public interest

Will Trump cut healthy school lunches, food labels and safety inspections?

Will Donald Trump remake school lunches into his fast-food favorites of burgers and fried chicken when he’s president?

Children grumbling about the rules for  healthier school lunches rules championed by first lady Michelle Obama may have reason to cheer Trump’s election as the billionaire businessman is a proud patron of Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s. And he’s promised to curb federal regulations.

The Obama administration has made healthier, safer and better labeled food a priority in the last eight years, significantly raising the profile of food policy and sometimes drawing the ire of Republicans, farmers and the food industry. The first lady made reducing childhood obesity one of her signature issues through her “Let’s Move” campaign.

In addition to the healthier rules for school lunches, the administration ushered a sweeping food safety law through Congress, pushed through several new food labeling regulations, started to phase out trans fats, added calorie labels to menus and suggested new limits on sodium in packaged foods. The White House has also fended off efforts in the Republican Congress to trim the nation’s food stamp program.

“Food advocates are already nostalgic for the Obama era and will be playing defense for the next four years,” says Sam Kass, a former White House senior adviser on nutrition and personal chef for the Obamas.

A look at some of the food regulations that could be scrapped — or tweaked — in the new administration:


Trump himself hasn’t weighed in on regulations for school lunches. But Republicans, school nutrition directors and some in the food industry have balked at parts of the administration’s rules that set stricter fat, sugar and sodium limits, among other standards, on foods in the lunch line and beyond. While many students and schools have now gotten used to the healthier foods, some still complain that the standards are costly and difficult to meet.

“I would be very surprised if we don’t see some major changes on the school lunch program” and some other food issues, said Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, the Republican chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees Agriculture Department spending.

Aderholt, who sits on Trump’s agriculture advisory committee, says the Obama administration’s approach was “activist driven” and people who voted for Trump are looking for a more common-sense approach.

Legislation is pending in both the House and Senate to revise some of the standards, and will likely be considered again next year. USDA could also make some changes on its own.

One of many names that have been floated as a possible agriculture secretary is Sid Miller, the Texas Agriculture Commissioner who repealed a state ban on deep fryers and soda machines at schools. Miller recently got in trouble when he used a profanity on Twitter to describe Democrat Hillary Clinton; he blamed a staffer and the tweet was deleted.


In September, the Trump campaign pitched rolling back food safety regulations in a fact sheet, arguing they are burdensome to farmers and criticizing increased inspections of food manufacturing facilities as “overkill.” The sheet referred to the “food police” at the Food and Drug Administration. The campaign later deleted the proposal from its website.

Congress passed new food safety regulations in 2010, a year after a salmonella outbreak linked to a Georgia peanut company killed nine people. Michael Taylor, former FDA deputy commissioner for foods who oversaw the food safety rules, says it wouldn’t be popular with consumers to roll them back.

“Consumers are only getting more focused on safety, health and wellness,” Taylor says.

Trump himself is a self-professed germaphobe who prefers eating at fast-food restaurants because he believes they have higher food safety standards.


Congressional Republicans have been examining food stamps since the program’s cost grew to almost $80 billion annually after the recession. Participation and costs have dipped since its 2013 high, but conservatives have suggested tightening eligibility standards or increasing work requirements. House Speaker Paul Ryan has for years championed an overhaul to the program.

Democrats in the Senate have consistently objected to any changes, and will still wield influence. But they won’t have the backing of a Democratic White House.


Many other laws are either already in place or close to it, including a revised “nutrition facts” panel on the back of food packages, with a new line breaking out added sugars, a labeling law for genetically modified foods and calorie labeling on restaurant and supermarket menus.

In many cases, the rules are a result of compromise with industry. Kass says that pulling back may just create more cost and uncertainty for businesses.

“Unwinding things is really hard, especially when most of them have been implemented and industry has moved on,” Kass says.

He predicts most of the regulations will stay, but that there will be little additional progress. Ongoing administration efforts to reduce sodium in food and antibiotics in meat could be casualties.

Margo Wootan, a lobbyist on nutrition issues for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says advocates will continue to be aggressive at the state and local levels, hoping change will bubble up.

“The public is more interested than ever in nutrition and will continue to press companies,” she says.


Soda pop industry pumps $100 million into defeating public health initiatives

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the American Beverage Association have spent at least $106 million to defeat public health initiatives at the federal, state, and local levels since 2009, according to an analysis conducted by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The watchdog group says the actual amount spent by the soda industry is much greater, since campaign finance and lobby expenses are not available in 10 out of the 23 jurisdictions that have considered policies aimed at reducing sugar drink consumption.

The soda industry ramped up its federal lobbying spending dramatically in 2009. That year, legislators were exploring new federal excise taxes on soda as one potential funding source for health care reform. Disclosure reports indicate menu labeling, school nutrition and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program were also among the industry’s interests. But compared with the industry’s pre-2009 baseline spending, CSPI estimates that the industry spent $52 million at the federal level opposing public health initiatives.

At the state level, the industry spent $16.7 million in Washington state in a successful campaign to overturn at the ballot box a 2-cent per 12-ounce tax passed by the legislature.

Between 2009 and 2015, the beverage industry spent $15.2 million to defeat several measures in New York state, including a proposed state-wide soda tax and then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to cap the size of restaurant soda servings to 16 ounces.

Between 2013 and 2015, the industry spent $2.4 million to unsuccessfully oppose a proposed soda tax in Berkeley, California, and spent $9.2 million in 2014 to successfully oppose a similar tax in San Francisco. The latter proposal had majority support but failed to reach the required two-thirds threshold.

“Like the tobacco industry before it, the soda industry is spending heavily and spending strategically and has mostly been successful at blocking federal, state and local public health measures aimed at reducing soda-related disease,” said CSPI director of health promotion policy Jim O’Hara. “However, it’s unclear whether the industry will be able to preserve its winning streak when it has to fend off a greater number of soda tax or warning label proposals simultaneously.”

Overall, the American Beverage Association spent $64.6 million to fight sugar drink initiatives.

Much of its money was spent at the DC-based public affairs firm Goddard Gunster and the media buying firm GCW Media services.

Soda industry spending is also bipartisan, and flows to vendors with Republican ties — such as Public Opinion Strategies — as well as Democratic ties — such as The Mellman Group, Beneson Strategy Group, and Dewey Square Group.

Activists seek to serve justice on Food Day

Justice throughout the food chain — from farmworkers to child consumers — is the focus of the fourth annual Food Day, which is observed on Oct. 24.

Started by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and other nonprofits in 2011, Food Day grew to 5,000 events from coast to coast in 2013.

This year, the Food Chain Workers Alliance — a national coalition of 23 organizations that represent over 280,000 workers who farm, produce, pack, transport, cook, serve and sell food — will use Food Day to bring awareness to consumers about food justice. 

Food Day will be celebrated in a variety of ways in Wisconsin. In Milwaukee, a “Disco Soup” event will bring young adults together at Troop Cafe, 3430 W. Wisconsin Ave., 10 a.m.–6 p.m., to turn 2,000 pounds of rescued vegetables and other food into a free meal for veterans and other community members, to the sound of classic ‘70s beats. In the Capitol, the Dane County Food Council will be host a Food Summit 9 a.m.–3:30 p.m., discussing locally achievable change, partnerships and innovations in the region to create a fair and sustainable food system.

For more, go online to foodday.org.

‘Worst restaurant meal’ in the U.S. is Long John Silver’s Big Catch

The Center for Science in the Public Interest announced – before lunch – on July 2 that laboratory tests show Long John Silver’s Big Catch is the worst restaurant meal in the United States.

The Big Catch meal included fried fish, hushpuppies and onion rings, delivering 33 grams of trans fat, the most powerful promoter of heart disease in the food supply, according to CSPI.

The meal contained 19 grams of saturated fat and nearly 3,700 milligrams of sodium, which promotes high blood pressure and stroke.

With 1,320 calories, the Big Catch isn’t the highest calorie meal offered at a fast food restaurant, but “when it comes to clogging arteries, CSPI says the Big Catch is by far the ‘Worst Restaurant Meal in America.’”

Most of the trans fat in the meal comes from industrially produced partially hydrogenated frying oil. The American Heart Association has said that people should limit themselves to about 2 grams of trans fat per day.

“Long John Silver’s Big Catch meal deserves to be buried 20,000 leagues under the sea,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “This company is taking perfectly healthy fish – and entombing it in a thick crust of batter and partially hydrogenated oil. The result? A heart attack on a hook. Instead of the Big Catch, I’d call it America’s Deadliest Catch.”

Many major fast-food chains have stopped using partially hydrogenated oil altogether, in response to bad publicity, lawsuits and local government restrictions on its use.

In 2006, before a CSPI lawsuit prompted KFC to stop using partially hydrogenated oil to fry its chicken, the worst meal on the KFC menu had 15 grams of trans fat – less than half the trans fat in the Big Catch with onion rings.

CSPI, providing a link to Long John Silver’s website, also claims the company overstates the amount of fish in the Big Catch and understates the amount of trans fat and sodium in the side orders.

“It turns out that when Long John Silver’s says 7-8 ounces of 100 percent haddock, it’s more like 60 percent haddock, and 40 percent batter and grease,” Jacobson said. “Nutrition aside, that’s just plain piracy.”

The CSPI notified the Food and Drug Administration of its findings and also notified Long John Silver’s of the potential for a lawsuit.