Food & Diet News 06-21-2007
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Editor, The Konformist
Burger King ignites Spam war with rival
By JAYMES SONG, Associated Press Writer
Mon Jun 11, 2007
For many Americans, spam is a four-letter word for unwanted e-mail.
In Hawaii, Spam is a beloved comfort food, with cans of the
gelatinous pork bricks found in virtually every cupboard.
Hoping to cash in on Hawaii's love affair with the pinkish meat
product, Burger King Corp. last month began offering Spam for
breakfast going head-to-head with rival McDonald's Corp., which
has been featuring Spam in the islands for years.
Burger King is offering the Spam Platter two slices of Spam
nestled between white rice and scrambled eggs. The fast-food giant
also offers the Croissanwich or Biscuit Sandwich with Spam.
Denise Yamauchi, Burger King managing director in Hawaii, said sales
have been "very good and very promising."
"It's so popular with the locals, we wanted to cater to them," she
Putting Spam on the menu, alongside more traditional items such as
the Whopper, has been in the works for about a year, and Burger
King's corporate headquarters finally signed off on the idea.
"It's something that was a little unique and a little different for
them, so it was a bit of a hard sell to bring to Hawaii," Yamauchi
said. "But they finally realized it is a unique flavor and something
the locals really like."
At a Burger King near downtown Honolulu, where a poster in the
window proudly advertises "Spam in the A.M.," the Spam Platter was
selling for $3.49. The nearly identical Spam, Eggs and Rice plate
across the street at McDonald's was $3.39.
Melanie Okazaki, marketing manager for McDonald's Restaurants of
Hawaii, said Spam has been offered at the chain's 75 island
restaurants since 2002.
"In Hawaii, it is a very popular menu item and we will continue to
offer it to our customers," she said.
Burger King's latest offering is counter to the chain's push to
offer healthier fare, including salads and the meatless BK Veggie
Burger. But no one can deny Hawaii's appetite for Spam.
Despite being one of the least-populated states, Hawaii leads the
nation in consumption of the Hormel Foods Corp. product. It's been a
hit ever since World War II. Isle residents consume more than 5
million pounds of Spam a year, an average of about six cans for
every man, woman and child.
Spam "musubi" a slice of Spam atop a block of rice and wrapped in
seaweed is an island favorite sold at nearly every convenience
store, including 7-Eleven. Spam fried rice is a local classic.
There are also more varieties of Spam sold in Hawaii than anywhere
else. There's Spam Garlic, Spam Bacon, Spam with Cheese, Spam with
Tabasco, Spam Turkey and Spam Lite, which featured less sodium and
"We're pleased to see more and more restaurants adding it to their
menu, providing Hawaiians additional opportunities to experience the
savory, salty-sweet taste they love," said Dan Goldman, Spam's
On the Net:
Kellogg to raise nutrition of kids' food
By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN, Associated Press Writer
Thu Jun 14, 2007
Kellogg Co., the world's largest cereal maker, has agreed to raise
the nutritional value of cereals and snacks it markets to children.
The Battle Creek, Mich., company avoided a lawsuit threatened by
parents and nutrition advocacy groups worried about increasing child
obesity. Kellogg intends to formally announce its decision Thursday.
The company said it won't promote foods in TV, radio, print or Web
site ads that reach audiences at least half of whom are under age 12
unless a single serving of the product meets these standards:
_No more than 200 calories.
_No trans fat and no more than 2 grams of saturated fat.
_No more than 230 milligrams of sodium, except for Eggo frozen
_No more than 12 grams of sugar, not counting sugar from fruit,
dairy and vegetables.
Kellogg said it would reformulate products to meet these criteria or
stop marketing them to children under 12 by the end of 2008.
"By committing to these nutrition standards and marketing reforms,
Kellogg has vaulted over the rest of the food industry," said
Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in
the Public Interest. "This commitment means that parents will find
it a little easier to steer their children toward healthy food
choices especially if other food manufacturers and broadcasters
follow Kellogg's lead."
Jacobson's nutrition advocacy group, along with two Massachusetts
parents and the Boston-based Campaign For A Commercial-Free
Childhood, had served notice in January 2006 of intent to sue
Kellogg and the Nickelodeon cable TV network under a Massachusetts
law to stop them from marketing junk food to kids.
Center spokesman Jeff Cronin said Kellogg contacted the plaintiffs
shortly thereafter and began negotiating the new standards, so the
lawsuit was not filed and will not be filed.
"We are pleased to work collaboratively with industry and advocacy
groups to unveil these standards," said David Mackay, Kellogg's
CEO. "We feel the Kellogg Nutrient Criteria set a new standard for
responsibility in the industry."
With 2006 sales of almost $11 billion, Kellogg is not only the No. 1
cereal-maker but also a leading producer of snack foods. Its brands
include Kellogg's, Keebler, Pop-Tarts, Eggo, Cheez-It, Rice Krispies
and Famous Amos.
Globally, 50 percent of the products Kellogg markets to children do
not meet the criteria, said Mark Baynes, Kellogg's chief marketing
officer. A third of the cereals it markets to children in the U.S.
fall outside standards.
Pop-Tarts and Froot Loops don't meet the criteria, though most
cereals fall inside the calorie guideline, Baynes said. Meeting the
sugar and sodium standards could be the most challenging.
Kellogg also announced that it will continue to refrain from
advertising to children under age 6, and will not in the future:
_Advertise to children any foods in schools and preschools that
include kids under age 12.
_Sponsor placement of any of its products in any medium primarily
directed at kids under age 12.
_Use branded toys connected to any foods that do not meet the
_Use licensed characters on mass-media ads directed primarily to
kids under 12 or on the front labels of food packages unless they
meet the standards.
The advertising agreement does not apply to marketing characters
Kellogg owns, like Tony the Tiger, but it does apply to characters
the food company licenses, like the cartoon figure Shrek, said Susan
Linn, co-founder of the Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood.
She said Kellogg was the first food company to agree to restrict
advertising using licensed media characters like Shrek.
"These characters play an incredibly important role in children's
lives. Kids see them every day; they have toys of them," Linn
said. "The media characters are much more powerful (than company-
owned characters like Tony the Tiger). The food companies want to
keep using them because they sell a lot of food; kids really respond
Earlier this month, a Federal Trade Commission study found that half
the ads for junk food, sugary cereals and soft drinks are on
children's programs, double the percentage 30 years ago. Children
between ages 2 and 11 saw approximately 5,500 food ads on television
in 2004, half of them on kids' shows with audiences of 50 percent
children or greater.
American companies spend about $15 billion a year marketing and
advertising to children under age 12, the Institute of Medicine said
last year when it warned that one-third of American children are
obese or at risk for becoming obese.
In response, Kellogg and McDonald's Corp. joined eight other major
food and drink companies last November in an industry-sponsored
pledge to promote more healthy foods and exercise in their child-
oriented advertising. A year earlier, Kraft Foods Inc. had promised
to curb ads to young children for snack foods, including Oreos and
Associated Press writer Ann Sanner contributed to this report.
'Cream of Wheat' man gets grave marker
Fri June 15, 2007
A man widely believed to be the model for the smiling chef on Cream
of Wheat boxes finally has a grave marker bearing his name.
Frank L. White died in 1938, and until this week, his grave in
Woodlawn Cemetery bore only a tiny concrete marker with no name.
On Wednesday, a granite gravestone was placed at his burial site. It
bears his name and an etching taken from the man depicted on the
Cream of Wheat box.
Jesse Lasorda, a family researcher from Lansing, started the
campaign to put the marker and etching on White's grave.
"Everybody deserves a headstone," Lasorda told the Lansing State
Journal. He discovered that White was born about 1867 in Barbados,
came to the U.S. in 1875 and became a citizen in 1890.
When White died Feb. 15, 1938, the Leslie Local-Republican described
him as a "famous chef" who "posed for an advertisement of a well-
known breakfast food."
White lived in Leslie for about the last 20 years of his life, and
the story of his posing for the Cream of Wheat picture was known in
the city of 2,000 located between Jackson and Lansing and about 70
miles west of Detroit.
The chef was photographed about 1900 while working in a Chicago
restaurant. His name was not recorded. White was a chef, traveled a
lot, was about the right age and told neighbors that he was the
Cream of Wheat model, the Jackson Citizen Patriot said.
Long owned by Kraft Foods Inc., the Cream of Wheat brand was sold
this year to B&G Foods Inc.
Rep. Lee's food tab: $21 for week
Grits, chicken thighs help lawmaker survive test of food-stamp life
By Sara Steffens, MEDIANEWS STAFF
Inside Bay Area
She ate grits and toast for breakfast, lunched on bananas and
crackers, and stretched the same package of chicken thighs over
several dinners, accompanied by peas from a dented can.
For Rep. Barbara Lee, surviving for a week on $21 worth of groceries
was a lesson in why poverty and chronic health problems often go
hand in hand.
"I've been eating grits and a lot of carbs, because they fill you
up," said Lee, D-Oakland. "You really become aware of the choices
people have to make, which are unhealthy choices."
Like the handful of other lawmakers who took last week's Food Stamp
Challenge, in which public officials were asked to eat for a week on
the average allotment given a food stamp recipient, Lee found the
tight budget left no room for fresh fruits or vegetables.
Her attempts to make healthy choices were thwarted by cost. Whole-
wheat tortillas were twice as much as flour, and grits proved
cheaper than her usual oatmeal.
"Canned greens the sodium content is off the scale," said Lee, who
completed the challenge Tuesday morning. "I wanted the fresh greens,
but the canned is cheaper."
And although food stamps cannot be used at fast food restaurants,
Lee supplemented home cooking with cheap items from Taco Bell,
McDonalds and White Castle.
At one point, she so craved vegetables she bought a dollar-menu taco
just for the smidgen of lettuce.
Given those choices, Lee said, it's no wonder low-income populations
suffer disproportionate rates of diabetes, hypertension, high
cholesterol and obesity.
Researchers long have noted the link between not being able to
afford food and suffering from poor health, including conditions
related to obesity.
"The simplest way to put it is the right sort of foods cost more,
and poverty makes that very difficult for a family to afford," said
Matt Sharp of California Food Policy Advocates. "The food-stamp
program helps close part of that gap, but needs to be strengthened
in several ways. ... The obvious one is to increase the benefit
Among the 2.5 million California adults with food insecurity that
is, who are sometimes short of food more than 40 percent report
they are in poor health, Sharp said.
The Food Stamp Challenge was created by anti-hunger groups to call
attention to the debate on the federal Farm Bill, which includes
reauthorization of the food stamp program.
Advocates want to improve the program by expanding eligibility,
simplifying enrollment and increasing the average benefit.
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Rep. JoAnn Emerson, R-Mo., have
introduced a bill that would invest an additional $20 billion in the
food stamp program over the next five years, adding about $37 to the
monthly benefit for a family of three.
California Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, also completed
the Food Stamp Challenge this week, while promoting his bill to
remove a requirement that Californians be fingerprinted to qualify
for food stamps.
"It clearly communicates, intentionally or not, that there is
something criminal about being poor and hungry," said Leno.
The bill passed the state Assembly last week and has been sent to
Knowing last week's busy legislative schedule wouldn't permit time
to cook, Leno ate mostly cereal, chicken soup and peanut butter
"The little that I could eat at best dulled the hunger, and it never
went away," Leno said. "After three or four days, my energy level
was depressed, and I did experience some lethargy. It really dampens
In the final days of the challenge, Leno ran out of food and dined
at a Haight Ashbury soup kitchen where he used to volunteer.
Though food stamp benefits average $94.05 a month per person, larger
households can often extend their buying power, said Suzan Bateson,
executive director of the Alameda County Community Food Bank.
"Four people in a household could qualify, and that could be maybe
$400 a month in extra money to acquire nutritious food," she said.
Still, a month's worth of food stamps typically lasts an East Bay
family two or two and a half weeks, Bateson said, so many families
also rely on school lunch programs, government commodities and
emergency supplies from food pantries.
To help boost nutrition for low-income families, the food bank now
offers fresh fruits and vegetables, which are not only expensive,
but can be hard to come by in low-income communities that lack
The Food Stamp Challenge reflects the choices low-income families
are forced to make every day, said Bateson.
"People are very overwhelmed when they go to the store and realize
they have a limited amount of money to spend and they have to
nourish their families."
Lee relied on tricks she learned as a college student, when she
received food stamps to help feed her two sons.
On a Saturday visit to Grocery Outlet in Berkeley, she bought a 25-
cent box of macaroni and cheese and a 35-cent can of tuna,
ingredients for a makeshift tuna casserole.
Lee found herself thinking about food constantly, worried about how
to make her money stretch.
"A couple of days, you got in a panic mode," she said. "What if the
food I bought doesn't last? What if I run out of money?"
"It's a very hard thing to do," Lee said. "I worry about the people
who after Tuesday are still on food stamps."
FDA advisers reject Sanofi-Aventis weight-loss drug
Story Highlights FDA advisers unanimously reject obesity drug
Panel says maker, Sanofi-Aventis SA, had failed to prove drug is
In studies, patients on the drug had twice as many psychiatric
Recommendation not binding; FDA's final decision expected by July
WASHINGTON (AP) -- There's no dispute that the drug rimonabant does
what it's supposed to do: help obese people lose weight.
It's the drug's side effects that are causing concern -- and are
likely to keep it off the market in the United States.
Federal health advisers unanimously rejected the drug, voting 14-0
that the manufacturer, Sanofi-Aventis SA, had failed to prove that
it is safe. A Food and Drug Administration medical officer had told
the panel that the drug increases the risk of suicidal thoughts and
other psychiatric problems.
The FDA usually follows the advice of its advisory panels but is not
required to do so. It's decision is expected by July 27.
The weight-loss drug is sold in 18 other countries.
"There is a reasonable suspicion we better learn some more and watch
this affair more closely before we launch into massive use of this
drug," said panelist Dr. Jules Hirsch, a senior physician at New
York's Rockefeller University. (Watch more on Zimulti, other diet
In studies, patients given the once-daily tablet reported twice as
many psychiatric side effects, including depression, anxiety and
sleep problems, than those who received sham treatment, Dr. Amy
Egan, an FDA medical officer, told the advisers.
"The numbers of events are small, but in aggregate they are
worrisome," Egan said.
Officials from Sanofi-Aventis suggested that patients be screened
for depression before they are prescribed the drug. They also
advised that patients visit their doctors five times during the
first year of treatment to be reassessed to further curtail any
"Who is the right patient to receive rimonabant? Not everybody,"
Sanofi-Aventis' Richard Gural told the panel of advisers earlier
Wednesday. The drug is not appropriate for anyone with a history of
depression or suicidal thoughts, or in whom depression has been
diagnosed or who is taking antidepressant medication, he added.
The company proposes selling the drug under the brand name Zimulti.
Rimonabant already is sold in Europe as Acomplia.
Panel had concerns
The litany of mental problems associated with the drug clearly gave
the panelists pause.
"I think this is a drug that needs further understanding with
respect to what it does to people's psyche," said panelist Dr. Sid
Gilman, a University of Michigan neurologist.
Even if the FDA does approve the first-in-its-class drug, the
findings make it highly likely it would bear stern warnings. Company
officials embraced the idea of such warnings, which could exclude
FDA-approved use in some patients.
The company, FDA and panelists all agreed that Zimulti, along with
diet and exercise, works to help shed weight. In yearlong studies,
patients on the drug lost roughly 14 pounds. Those given dummy pills
lost only about 4 pounds. However, patients regained weight when
treatment was stopped after a year.
But the FDA and its outside advisers shared deep concerns that the
drug's effect on the body could lead to an array of psychiatric
symptoms, including anxiety, phobias, post-traumatic stress
disorders and depression. No panelist felt the company had
sufficiently characterized the drug's safety.
"What I am really troubled by is the lack of good safety data," said
panel chairman Dr. Clifford Rosen, senior staff scientist at the
Maine Center for Osteoporosis.
The company believes those increased cases were associated with
depression or other disorders and weren't directly caused by its
drug. The FDA's Egan, however, said they were.
"We strongly believe that it is causal," Egan said. She noted 88
percent of those reporting psychiatric problems while on the drug
had no prior history of depression.
Furthermore, patients in the studies were carefully screened and
monitored, suggesting the problems would be more common should the
drug enter broad use, Egan added.
The screenings proposed by the company won't keep the depressed and
obese from Zimulti, warned Lynn McAfee, head of medical advocacy for
the Council on Size & Weight Discrimination, a fat acceptance group.
"If this gets out to be a real big deal in the public, you can
figure out how to answer those questions to get the drug," McAfee
said. "It's not going to stop anyone." The potential market for the
drug is huge, as obesity rates have exploded in the past two
decades. Today, nearly one in three American adults age 20 or older
is obese, according to government data.
Rimonabant blocks the same pleasure centers in the body activated
when pot smokers get the munchies. Blocking the receptors leads to
patients eating less and losing weight. Sanofi-Aventis also believes
the drug decreases fat storage.
The FDA previously told the French company it would not approve the
drug to help smokers quit.
Weight loss with yucky side effects
Diet drug Alli debuts with digestive concerns
BY SUSAN ABRAM, Staff Writer
LA Daily News
BURBANK - It can be your friend or your foe.
In the war against weight loss, a new, federally approved, over-the-
counter diet pill is being touted as the latest weapon against fat.
Alli (pronounced "ally") made its debut Friday in most drug stores,
where the $60-a-package product was disappearing from specially
designed display cases.
GlaxoSmithKline, the drug's maker, is providing extensive
information at myalli.com to alert users that the drug is no magic
bullet but is effective with proper diet and exercise.
Made to act as a fat blocker, Alli is half the dosage of its
predecessor known as Xenical, but does come with caution: its side
effects aren't exactly proper dinner table conversation.
"Loose stools ...," a Burbank CVS customer mumbled as she sat cross-
legged in front of a display case to read the instructions. "I don't
think I like that."
Alli works on enzymes that break down fat. The drug makes sure that
undigested fat cannot be absorbed but passes through the body
naturally. However, eating meals with too much fat can cause
aggressive, unstoppable bowel movements, among other intestinal
"The side effects are nasty," said Dr. Jack Der-Sarkissian, a local
family physician and regional leader of adult weight management for
Kaiser Permanente. "It hasn't been popular as a prescription drug
because of the side effects."
Der-Sarkissian said those effects could work as a harsh reminder and
deterrent to eating fatty foods. He called the pill a tool that can
be used in conjunction with persistent diet and exercise. And
research has shown it does work and is the least harmful.
But Der-Sarkissian said he is concerned that consumers won't read
the instructions carefully.
"People are putting a lot of expectations on it," he said. "But my
fear is that my patients won't read all of that literature. If they
follow everything, and do it under their doctor's observation, it
could play a role in weight loss."
And some are calling the FDA's approval an important, historical
moment in the treatment of obesity.
"Alli is by far the safest weight-loss medication ever studied,"
said Dr. Gary Foster, director for the Center of Obesity Research
and Education at Temple University in Philadelphia. "It doesn't act
on the brain, heart or liver. It's a very safe medication."
It also might encourage users to change behaviors, because of the
"You'll make it your business to learn what's in a Caesar salad,"
Foster said. "It will get people interested in how food is prepared
at restaurants to ask questions. In that way, it's a medication that
in a positive way can change behavior."
At Miami Fitness in Burbank, gym members pooh-poohed the notion that
any diet pill could work.
"You'll need diapers with this one," said Barbara Merlin, 60, of
Burbank. "I'm not really interested in it because it messes with
your digestive system. Just watch the carbs and sugar. That's it."
As Gary Lewin, 51, lifted weights, he called the use of diet pills
"I admit, staying on a diet is difficult sometimes, but if you just
eat right, it's easy to moderate your weight," he said in between
curls. "Our society wants the middle class to work all the time. But
you need to make time to go to the gym."