Category Archives: Food Marketing

Apr 30 2012

Federal Trade Commission: Advertising Practices to Promote Public Health

Mary_Engle Mary Engle, Federal Trade Commission

The National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy is about to celebrate its first anniversary. The Strategy offers a comprehensive plan aimed at increasing the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. A cornerstone of the National Prevention Strategy is that it recognizes that good health comes not just from receiving quality medical care, but also from the conditions we face where we live, learn work and play such as clean water and air, safe worksites and healthy foods. The strategy was developed by the National Prevention Council, which is composed of 17 federal agencies including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and others.

As the Strategy is rolled out, NewPublicHealth will be speaking with Cabinet Secretaries, Agency directors and their designees to the Prevention Council about the initiatives being introduced to help Americans work toward the goal of long and healthy lives.

This week, NewPublicHealth spoke with Mary Engle, Director of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Division of Advertising Practices, and National Prevention Council designee.

NewPublicHealth: Why is health a priority for the FTC? Why was it important for FTC to be involved in the development of the National Prevention Strategy?

Mary Engle: When you think about our mission, which is to protect consumers and maintain competition in the marketplace, health is such an important part of that. We want to make sure consumers aren’t misled about health services and products marketed to them and that they don’t pay more than they need to.

Initiatives that are a priority for us include combating deceptive advertising of fraudulent cure-all claims for dietary supplements and weight loss products; monitoring and reporting on the marketing of food to children as well as alcohol and tobacco marketing practices; and developing consumer education materials designed to empower consumers to make informed health care decisions and to avoid fraud.

NPH: What FTC initiatives support the National Prevention Strategy?

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Dec 20 2011

Influencing Teens Against Sugary Drinks with Calorie Signage: Recommended Reading

Teenagers from lower-income, predominately Black neighborhoods in Baltimore purchased sugary beverages after seeing calorie information on signs posted in convenience stores, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health last week.

The study, which was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its Healthy Eating Research program, found that providing any calorie information reduced the odds that teenagers would purchase a sugary drink by about 40 percent. Calorie information provided as a physical activity equivalent was most effective—such as, "To burn off the calories in a single bottle of soda or fruit drink, you would have to jog for 50 minutes."

>>Read the full article here.

>>Stay up-to-date on efforts to reverse the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic. RWJF sends a weekly roundup of news, events and policy updates regarding childhood obesity and related issues. To get these updates, visit and sign in. Once you’re logged in, visit the Email Services page and select the Childhood Obesity Weekly Policy Update.

Dec 13 2011

CDC Home Page Gets a Face Lift


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a home page redesign yesterday that reflects the growing use of social media to access health information. The home page now prominently features the agency’s Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Additional changes include:

  • More browser compatibility
  • Brighter colors, as well as improved display to accommodate the growing number of people accessing the page on mobile devices
  • A new “Outbreaks” module that will continually update information on disease outbreaks—a valuable tool for people who don’t rely on other frequently updated sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

"Emphasizing Twitter and Facebook is important," says Karen Morrione, senior advisor for research and strategy in the electronic media branch at CDC, “because our guiding vision is to make sure our information is credible but also that our information is available where people are actually spending time. We want to make sure they have access to us no matter how they’re accessing us."

The page also has done away with some of the clutter of the previous version. “We wanted a much more modern look and I think we got it,” says Morrione.

The top of the page, which once had rotating stories, now has just one feature that will change regularly. (Today’s feature links to a video on exercising in spite of arthritis pain—a timely update, given a study published last week in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Report that found that pain keeps many of the 50 million people in the U.S. with arthritis from exercising.)

The stories that once rotated at the top of the page are now located to the left of the home page and will change frequently. Current stories include ones on holiday road safety and lead hazards in some holiday toys.

Last year, received over 550 million page views, and the most popular topics included the agency’s A-Z search function, navigable from the home page, BMI calculators and salmonella. Early next year CDC will release an iPad app to make it easier for health professionals to share data with consumers.

CDC is asking users to take a survey and let them know what you think about the new changes.

>>BONUS Recommended Reading: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a guide to writing and designing easy-to-use health websites. Read the guide here.

>>Weigh in: What other public health websites might benefit from a redesign and what changes would you suggest?

Oct 31 2011

Health & Hollywood: "Putting a Little Spinach in the Popcorn"


Television gets a bad rap for negative health messages. But some groups are turning that around by incorporating health messages into popular television shows and movies, like Grey’s Anatomy, House and ER on TV and the movie Contagion on the big screen.

Hollywood, Health & Society, based out of the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center, actually goes into the writer’s rooms of popular television shows to bring them public health stories. “Transportation” is when viewers lose track of their surroundings and come to feel deeply for the characters in the story, said Sandra de Castro Buffington of USC. In this state, viewers are likely to learn more and be more open to changing their views and behaviors.

Entertainment media meets people where they are with content they’re interested in. It’s “putting a little spinach in the popcorn,” said de Castro Buffington – or “putting vegetables on the pizza,” if you ask Jason Rzepka, Vice President of Public Affairs for MTV Networks. MTV’s 16 and Pregnant television show has been criticized by some for glamorizing teen pregnancy, but it reaches teens in greater volume than any PSA and in fact provides a realistic view of teen pregnancy. Even the Vatican newspaper said they were “pleasantly surprised” by the show. A survey found that 93 percent of teen viewers think pregnancy is harder than they’d imagined.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has pioneered research in this area, and partnered with everyone from MTV and BET to Walgreens to get health messages integrated into a variety of platforms. NewPublicHealth spoke with Tina Hoff, Senior Vice President and Director of the Health Communication and Media Partnership Program at the Kaiser Family Foundation about how they are using entertainment partnerships to create change.

NPH: What is your session about at APHA?

Tina Hoff: The panel that I’m on is being organized by the Advertising Council and the focus of it is about integrating health messages into entertainment platforms, and that’s traditionally been working with popular television shows. That is something that the Foundation has done for many years now to weave in story lines about health issues.

But today we’re seeing this kind of message integration happen in lots of other ways at well. We, for example, are also working with partners like the National Basketball Association, as part of our outreach on HIV efforts to do message integration into games. So you’re seeing things like that happen at sporting events. We also have a partnership with Walgreen’s, the pharmacy company, where we’re working to distribute materials and messages through their stores and do what I would also call message integration in terms of printing information on receipts or doing messaging on in-store audio systems and things like that. So I think a lot of the strategies that we have seen for many years being employed with television is now sending to other areas as well.

NPH: What has the research found on the effectiveness of health messages in television shows?

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Oct 31 2011

Marketing of Sugary Drinks: NewPublicHealth Q&A with Jennifer Harris

JenniferHarris Jennifer Harris, Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity

At an APHA session this morning, researchers from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity released a new study, which found that beverage companies extensively market sugary drinks to youths.

The report’s authors studied the marketing practices of 14 beverage companies and examined the nutritional quality of nearly 600 products, including full-calorie sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit drinks.

“Beverage companies have pledged to improve child-directed advertising,” said lead researcher Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA, and director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center. “But we are not seeing a true decrease in marketing exposure. Instead companies have shifted from traditional media to newer forms that engage youth through rewards for purchasing sugary drinks, community events, cause-related marketing, promotions, product placements, social media, and smartphones.”

The report was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Rudd Foundation.

NewPublicHealth spoke with Dr. Harris about the Rudd Center report.

NewPublicHealth: What were the major study findings?

Dr. Harris: There were two main things that we found. One was we looked at the nutrition and ingredients in fruit drinks, sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks and flavored waters and ice teas, and especially with the children’s fruit drinks we were very surprised at what was contained in those drinks. A lot of parents think they’re healthy products to serve their children, but most of them contained 5 percent or 10 percent juice at the most. A lot of them, 40 percent, contained artificial sweeteners, which you wouldn’t know unless you actually went through all the ingredients and knew some of these chemicals in them. And then the calories in the drinks were as high as the calories in the soda. So, basically these fruit drinks that are marketed to feed children are very unhealthy products, and we were surprised at how unhealthy they were.

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