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    Published on: April 20, 2005

    As reported yesterday in an MNB special alert, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled its new nutrition pyramid – a new, vertically striped edition that gives specific advice about how much and what kinds of foods the average person should each day.

    The new pyramid has six vertical strips, each one representing various food groups. The orange stripe represents grains, with the recommendation that people should “eat at least three ounces of whole grain bread, cereal, crackers, rice, or pasta every day,” with half of all grains consumed recommended to be whole grains. Green is for veggies, suggesting 2.5 cups of dark green and orange vegetables a day. Red is for fruit, suggesting two cups of fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruit a day – but easy on the fruit juice. Blue is for three cups a day of dairy (or an alternative source of calcium) – low-fat or skim, please. The thin purple stripe is for meats and beans – low fat or lean, and always baked, broiled or grilled. And the really, really thin yellow stripe is for oils, with the recommendation that “most of your fat sources come from fish, nuts and vegetable oils,” and that consumers “limit solid fats like butter, stick margarine, shortening and lard.”

    Details are available at:

    The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) seemed pleased with the new pyramid.

    “This is great,” said Kathy Means, Vice President of Government Relations for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), in a prepared statement. “In our comments to USDA, we stressed that produce had to be featured prominently in any dietary guidance graphic, and we’re thrilled to see that happen. It’s important that we use the version of the graphic that includes the depiction of fruits and vegetables in addition to the color bands so that consumers quickly grasp what they’re supposed to do. The graphic without the food depictions is less clear about the actions consumers should take.”

    And, Means said, “We’re certainly hopeful that the government will use it extensive communications power to get the word out and industry can do its part, too. This is a great tool that highlights our industry’s products and has the science-based credibility of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Now we need to translate awareness and education into behavior for the health of the country and the health of our industry.”

    Meanwhile, Ahold-owned Giant Food announced plans to help consumers put the pyramid’s tenets into practice.

    "This wonderful interactive tool will help consumers understand the best choices within each food group. It is our goal to make it easy to find these choices at the supermarket," said Odonna Mathews, Vice President of Consumer Affairs at Giant Food. Each month Giant will focus on a key message of MyPyramid, communicating through the consumer column in the Giant ad circular, in-store radio, the website and in-store signing.

    Giant will also promote its school tours and new tour activity booklet for grades K-3 beginning in August. The tours and activity booklet will highlight the new MyPyramid. Teachers, Scout leaders and other groups for children ages 5-8 will want to take advantage of this opportunity to show children how to make healthful food selections.

    MNB also got a great email from Bobbie Randall, a registered dietician at Ohio’s Buehlers Fresh Foods Markets, which put the pyramid into perspective:

    “The weight of the world has been lifted off the shoulders of nutrition professionals. For years they have been trying to convince people that a serving is not in the eye of the beholder.

    “The one-size-fits-all Food Guide Pyramid has been replaced with a new system of information to help consumers understand how to put nutrition recommendations into action. My Pyramid introduced on April 19, 2005 by the Department of Agriculture has taken the guesswork out serving sizes.

    “It is about time. After watching the film Super Size Me, many people finally got the picture that a serving is not just what someone else deems enough to eat. The new guideline has put a number on the amount, an image to the imaginary, and a size to the ambiguous term: enough.

    “The new eating guideline, My Pyramid, is still in the shape of a triangle but it has gone 3-D. Instead of the interior lines stretching across horizontally, the recommendations are represented on colorful lines that reach toward the peak. The stair-climbing figure scaling the side of the structure adds to the fluid movement of the vertical lines.

    “The new message of this dining guideline is that good health involves more than just food choices; movement matters too. The design may seem to be busy but that is just the point. Whether it means that a person may be moved to learn more about the green, red, blue, yellow and purple stripes or the black and white stick figure, the message is to move.

    “The previous pyramid concept was blamed for the rise in the obesity epidemic in America. The public complained that the bottom of the pyramid that recommended 6-11 grain servings a day contributed to the growing girth of the nation…The new guide gives the consumer more choices to tailor their diet to their lifestyle.

    “Serving sizes are now spelled out. To nutrition professionals, 9 servings of fruits and vegetables are the new recommendations. To the eating public, that is translated into eating 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables a day. This will take the guesswork out of just how much is a serving.

    “Eating 3 ounces of whole-grain foods a day means consuming 3 pieces of whole wheat bread that weighs 1 ounce apiece or other choices. Nutrition professionals will gladly remind the public that a .5 cup serving of whole grain rice or a cereal product usually weighs approximately 1 ounce. That is language that the general public can finally understand.

    “America has been dubbed, "The Land of Fad Diets." Name the day of the week and a new fad diet will emerge. The recent resurrection of the low carbohydrate, high protein diet was an example of how Americans are starving for nutrition information. Research has proven that less than 10% of the folks who lost weight on the Atkins Diet are still following the diet and have kept the weight off.

    “Critics of the new My Pyramid system of nutrition education state that the symbol does not educate the public. They claim that the graphic excludes the information needed to steer this country to svelte or save the nation from drowning in a fast food menu.

    “As the saying goes, the proof will be in the pudding as long as only ? cup is served. The challenge of the new dining guidance system will be to educate the public on the new recommendations of My Pyramid as well as The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005 published in January, 2005.

    “The goal of My Pyramid is to help diners put healthy choices into action. This may mean actually adding 30 minutes of physical activity into a day or increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy into the daily menu.

    “Since Americans are fad crazy consider it a fad that should not fade away. It has taken the health community years to develop this new symbol that depicts movement and positive food choices. Simple lines and a simple message are needed in a culture that prides itself on variety.

    “The ambiguity of the serving size has been lifted. The word 'exercise' has been defined. My Pyramid has the potential of becoming My Fadamid.

    “Without specific numbers actually listed on the pyramid, the consumer can insert their own numbers onto the colorful ribbons of food choices according to the 12 available caloric guidelines. The generic stick figure may be walking the perimeter of the ancient shape but people can define the activity according to their individual life style.

    “This new symbol frees the nutrition professional from preaching in hopes of teaching. It is something that Americans crave, an educational tool with choice.

    “Learn the basic guidelines and the message spells out improved health and wellness. My Fadamid is similar to the transportation guidelines in this country. Speed limits and traffic rules govern the highways. Make a wrong turn and you may get lost in a traffic jam similar to a clogged artery or a blood stream full of glucose molecules. Follow a system that allows nutrition and activity to lead to a healthy path and the road to wellness does not turn into gridlock or morbid obesity.

    “Turning My Pyramid into a personal My Fadamid makes dining individual. Following the appropriate serving sizes and caloric requirements within a personalized plan can make a body feel special. Moving to the beat of your own drummer while scaling the stairs of the triangular shape takes on a life of its own. Seizing and maintaining control is an American trait that is cherished. Value the choices that My Pyramid offers. Nutrition professionals are poised to propel America toward more dieting freedom. Fad diets are alive and well within My Pyramid.”

    Not everyone was impressed, however.

    The Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) released a statement that said, in part:

    Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) today expressed disappointment in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new healthy eating education program MyPyramid. Noting a broad-scale effort is needed to change America’s food environment, the foundation unveiled a national action plan calling on institutions and industries to help make the healthy choice the easy choice.

    “MyPyramid misses the mark for most Americans, replacing an American icon with an oversimplified, uncommunicative visual that leaves out real guidance for a nation hungry for direction,” said PBH President Elizabeth Pivonka. “Most importantly, it fails to stress the importance of increasing fruit and vegetable intake for better health and to control weight. In the process, it fails Americans’ public health.”

    “Furthermore, education alone will not build a healthier nation. To reverse the obesity epidemic and its health crisis, and to close the gap in important nutrients and phytochemicals in the American diet, we need an environment where healthy food choices are encouraged and convenient, said Pivonka. “That is PBH’s objective in today unveiling our own national action plan.”

    PBH’s National Action Plan to Promote Health Through Increased Fruit and Vegetable Consumption calls on government leaders, schools, fruit and vegetable producers and retailers, restaurants, workplaces, healthcare and others to take action to help consumers more than double their fruit and vegetable intake to meet the new dietary goals. It offers a host of short- and long-range strategies to create a food environment where the healthy choice is also the easy choice.
    KC's View:
    With all due respect, we think Dr. Pivonka is overreacting a bit to the introduction of the new nutrition pyramid today, perhaps a reflection of the fact that she has a vested interest in the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.

    Do we think the new pyramid is the ultimate answer to all the nation’s nutrition/obesity problems? Of course not. But unlike Dr. Pivonka, we actually think the new pyramid is an improvement on the old one – it makes more sense graphically, the use of “cups” as opposed to “servings” is an improvement that is easier to understand, and we walked away from it feeling as though it was making what can be a complicated subject fairly simple.

    We shouldn’t expect the federal government to provide all the answers. The pyramid should be a starting point from which retailers can make recommendations to their shoppers, associations can develop dietary and marketing plans, and parents can make decisions for themselves and their children.

    By the way, we are disappointed by one thing.

    We’ve reviewed the pyramid and read the new federal recommendations a couple of dozen times, and no matter how closely we look, we can’t find any reference to one specific and highly important food group.



    Published on: April 20, 2005

    Meanwhile, as the impact and efficacy of the new USDA nutrition pyramid is discussed, the New York Times reports on page one this morning that a new study from the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that “increased risk of death from obesity was seen for the most part in the extremely obese, a group constituting only 8 percent of Americans.”

    In other words, if you’re only overweight but not obese, you’re not any more likely to die early than people who are at their optimum weight.

    In fact, the study also found that people who are extremely thin are more likely to die early than people who are overweight.

    The NYT writes that the new study is “considered by many independent scientists to be the most rigorous yet on the effects of weight, controlled for factors like smoking, age, race and alcohol consumption in a sophisticated analysis derived from a well-known method that has been used to predict cancer risk.”

    According to the Times, there are varying reactions to the new study from researchers – some say that it goes a long way toward helping to quell the national hysteria about weight control, while others worry that its results will dilute people’s attention to the obesity problem.
    KC's View:
    Sometimes, it is worth getting up in the morning. And this study has made today one of those days.

    Obesity attention is one thing. Obesity hysteria doesn’t make any sense at all.

    Pass a cupcake.

    Published on: April 20, 2005

    Published reports say that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ State Government Committee is considering a bill that would protect the food industry – everyone from farmers to manufacturers to retailers to fast food chains – from lawsuits holding it responsible for individual or collective obesity, or health conditions linked to obesity.

    Prospects for the bill becoming law are uncertain, according to reports.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 20, 2005

    The Wall Street Journal reports on what it calls “the rapid commercialization of the organic movement” and how it has “provoked a backlash by some of the very farmers and activists who popularized organic farming in the first place.”

    Because “organic” has become more mainstream and the application of the term is now governed by federal guidelines, - covering specific practices and farming techniques – some suppliers are using new terms to differentiate their products, such as "Biodynamic," "Food Alliance Certified," "local" and even "beyond organic."

    “The goal of the new terminology,” the WSJ writes, “is to describe practices not included in the government's organic regulations.”
    KC's View:
    Of course, the intervention of the federal government in creating organic standards was originally done to simplify consumer understanding of what organic means…and now the situation gets murkier still.

    On the other hand, we admire the efforts by some companies to aggressively define themselves on their own terms…something that more retailers should do.

    Can you imagine if some supermarket actually defined itself as being something other than a supermarket? That instead of saying “us, too” some retailer said “we’re not them”…and actually lived up to the promise?

    Published on: April 20, 2005

    The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a report suggesting that recent studies touting the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption may be inaccurate.

    While not dismissing the possibility that moderate drinking could help reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks, CDC said that the research is far from conclusive.

    "We're feeling the pendulum has swung way too far and Americans are getting sort of the wrong idea" on alcohol, the study's lead author, Dr. Tim Naimi, told the Associated Press. "The science around moderate drinking is very murky."

    What makes the research so murky, the CDC said, is the fact that moderate drinkers tend to live lifestyles that help their chances of avoiding certain diseases – they tend to be more active, better educated, don’t smoke, and have more money and therefore better healthcare. They also are more likely to enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail in the evening…but it is debatable whether the alcohol is a determining factor in their better health.
    KC's View:
    On the other hand, that glass of wine probably doesn’t hurt. And it certainly helps us to relax at the end of a long day.

    Published on: April 20, 2005

    Dr. David Kessler, who ran the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during the Clinton administration, has come out in support of federal legislation that would, according to the Boston Globe, “require the FDA to establish regulated importation channels using a system of foreign suppliers that have passed FDA inspections.”

    The Globe reports that Kessler believes that the bill – which was introduced by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) – “would introduce safety to a black market in foreign pills.” This black market in illegally imported drugs was worth $1.4 billion last year, according to the USA Department of Health and Human services (HHS).

    In prepared testimony before Congress, Kessler said, ''We already have a system of importation of drugs that jeopardizes public health. Congress has the responsibility to fix this serious problem."

    The FDA has been resisting any legalization of these drug imports, though it did not comment on the Kessler testimony. Legalization of drug imports also has been opposed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), though proponents of a change have not backed down from their efforts.
    KC's View:
    At the very least, this legislation deserves an open debate and a vote, with legislators required to take sides. The bigger problem, of course, isn’t the fact of the illegal imports, but rather the broader issue of health care costs in this country, which affect not just individuals but also companies struggling to cover their employees while maintaining profits.

    Published on: April 20, 2005

    The Boston Globe reports this morning that two former Gillette executives – Joseph Turley, the former president/COO, and Joseph Mullaney, the former vice-chairman – are opposing the $57 billion sale of Gillette to Procter & Gamble.

    The Globe reports that both men say that “the sale of Gillette was unnecessary and questioned the motives of chief executive James Kilts, who stands to make an estimated $173 million in the transaction.

    ''We can understand how [Kilts] could be persuaded that a sale to P&G was the best way to go," Turley and Mullaney wrote in the letter delivered to Gillette last Friday. ''But how could you directors go along with it? You have a duty to look out for the best interests of the shareholders and the stakeholders."

    The Globe also reports that “Turley and Mullaney argue recent financial results show Gillette's business to be robust and reject the company's explanation of why a merger would be compelling as '’faulty judgment and logic.’”
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 20, 2005

    A report in the Chinese media says that a study done by Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Suggests that Colgate toothpaste could generate a carcinogenic gas when mixed with water.

    The reason: the toothpaste reportedly contains a chemical called triclosan that, when mixed with the chlorine in tap water, can produce chloroform gas, which can cause depression, liver problems, and even cancer in certain cases.

    However, Chinese authorities said that the amounts of chloroform gas were so small as to be of very little concern. The Chinese government has banned triclosan in cosmetics, but not in toothpaste.

    There was a report in the Chinese media that a number of toothpaste brands – including Aquafresh and Sensodyne – contain triclosan, and that UK retailer Marks & Spencer is pulling products containing the chemical off its shelves.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 20, 2005

    The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday ordered Bayer Pharmaceuticals and GlaxoSmithKline PLC to pull a television ad for impotence drug Levitra off the air. The FDA said that the commercial does not adequately state the drug's potential side effects and cannot substantiate claims that it is superior to competitors.
    KC's View:
    What a shame. Because we never tire of having to explain what “erectile dysfunction” is to our kids.

    Published on: April 20, 2005

    Hershey Foods Corp., the nation's largest candy manufacturer, officially changed its name The Hershey Co. yesterday, saying that the shift reflects the company’s desire to broaden its scope to cookies, health bars and even urban retail stores.

    The company also revealed its new logo, which looks like the wrapper of its eponymous chocolate bar.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 20, 2005

    • Publix announced that it will open its first “Publix Sabor” store tomorrow, in Kissimmee, Florida, a unit that “will offer customers a variety of Hispanic and Caribbean products throughout the entire store.”

    • Dollar General reportedly plans to open at least 30 new Market stores this year, units that offer an expanded grocery selection. There are 20 such units operating at present.

      The Market concept remains a small part of the company, however. Dollar General has some 7,500 units, and plans to open a total of 730 new stores in the coming year.

    • France-based Carrefour’s non-executive chairman, Luc Vandevelde, said yesterday that the company would not be looking to establish partnerships or alliances with other retailers as it looks to reverse a decline in its business fortunes. "We don't need partnerships with others to ensure our future development,” he told the annual meeting of company shareholders.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 20, 2005

    • Supervalu posted fourth-quarter net income of $92.9 million, compared to $95.6 million during the same fiscal period last year. Sales fell eight percent to $4.59 billion from $5.04 billion, a decline the company attributed to the fact that the quarter was a week shorter than a year ago.

    • Smart & Final reported that its first quarter income fell to $3.2 million, from $6.2 million a year earlier. Sales rose one percent to $427.6 million from $423.5 million last year. Last year’s results, of course, were inflated by the effects of the strike/lockout that affected Southern California’s biggest grocery retailers.

    • The Coca-Cola Co. reports that its first quarter net income fell to $1 billion from $1.13 billion a year earlier, a decline that it attributed to higher marketing expenses. Revenue grew 3.7 percent to $5.27 billion, but the company acknowledged that it would have been essentially flat without currency-exchange benefits.

    • Kraft Foods said that its first quarter profit rose 27 percent to $713 million, from $560 million a year earlier. Revenue grew 6.4 percent to $8.06 billion, in part due to favorable exchange rates.

    • Johnson & Johnson reported that its first quarter net income grew 17 percent to $2.93 billion, from $2.49 billion during the same period a year ago. Sales increased to $12.83 billion from $11.56 billion.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 20, 2005

    • GlobalNetXchange (GNX) announced the appointment of Ken Fleming as Vice President of Supply Chain Products and Services, responsible for all aspects of the company’s supply chain services operations, including product management and customer support. He joins GNX from Transora, where he led global technology and operations functions as President and COO, and previously served as the company’s Chief Marketing Officer.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 20, 2005

    …will return.
    KC's View: