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The ‘Job-Killing’ Fiction Behind Trump’s Retreat on Fuel Economy Standards

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When President Trump traveled to Michigan last week to announce that his administration will reevaluate (and almost certainly weaken) a key environmental achievement of the past decade — new fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks — he alleged that “industry-killing regulations” had contributed to a loss of jobs in the U.S. automobile sector. The truth is, however, writes Yale Environment 360 that there is no factual basis for the claim that stricter standards have killed jobs. There is, however, abundant evidence that these regulations have saved Americans billions of dollars at the pump, bolstered U.S. energy independence, fostered automotive innovation, and led to major reductions in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

New survey shows most UK food companies fail to meet salt reduction targets

With less than nine months to go for food manufacturers and retailers to meet the 2017 Salt Reduction Targets a new survey by Consensus Action on Salt and Health  based at Queen Mary University of London has found that, out of 28 food categories analyzed, only ‘bread rolls’ has so far met the 2017 maximum, but not the average, salt target . The product survey compared two shopping baskets each containing similar everyday food items, but with different amounts of salt. The difference in salt content between the ‘unhealthy’ and ‘healthy’ baskets of products was a staggering 57g of salt.

How the alcohol industry relies on harmful use of alcohol and works to protect its profits

The alcohol industry have attempted to position themselves as collaborators in alcohol policy making as a way of influencing policies away from a focus on the drivers of the harmful use of alcohol (marketing, over availability and affordability). Their framings of alcohol consumption and harms allow them to argue for ineffective measures, largely targeting heavier consumers, and against population wide measures as the latter will affect moderate drinkers. The goal of their public relations organizations is to ‘promote responsible drinking’. However, analysis of data collected in the International Alcohol Control study and used to estimate how much heavier drinking occasions contribute to the alcohol market in five different countries shows the alcohol industry’s reliance on the harmful use of alcohol. In higher income countries heavier drinking occasions make up approximately 50% of sales and in middle income countries it is closer to two-thirds.

Full citation: Casswell S, Callinan S, Chaiyasong S, Cuong PV, Kazantseva E, Bayandorj T,Huckle T, Parker K, Railton R, Wall M. How the alcohol industry relies on harmful use of alcohol and works to protect its profits. Drug Alcohol Rev. 2016;35(6):661-664.

The Government’s Fraught, Overdue Effort to Redefine “Healthy” Food

Last week, at a Hilton hotel in a Maryland suburb near Washington, D.C., reports The New Republic, the Food and Drug Administration held a little-noticed public meeting with big implications for anyone who goes grocery shopping in America. Food industry representatives, consumer advocates, and nutrition experts spent the day trying to influence the government as it looks to redefine which foods are allowed to be labeled as “healthy.”  Kristin Reimers, nutrition director for the packaged food company Conagra Brands, told the crowd she’s all for encouraging healthier foods, but added, “It’s important to keep in mind that taste is the primary factor that drives consumers to the foods they buy.” In an interview, she clarified that she thinks there should be a bit more sodium, saturated fat, and sugar permitted in “healthy” foods than the FDA currently allows.

Alcohol Labeling in Europe: Who sets the standards?

A new report from the Commission to the European Parliament and Council regarding the mandatory labeling of the list of ingredients and the nutrition declaration of alcoholic beverages recommends the industry develop a voluntary labeling proposal.  Mariann Skar, Secretary General of the European Alcohol Policy Alliance noted: “We welcome the report as it clearly recognizes the need for better alcohol labeling and widespread support for it. Disappointingly, the conclusions do not seem to be in line as it asks for self-regulatory proposal from the industry. Self-regulation is not a suitable regulatory mechanism. Member States in the European Council should follow up and empower the European Commission to take regulatory actions.”

Dirty dancing: Health journalists and the pharmaceutical industry

A new report analyzes the complex ways in which Belgian magazines deal with health information on the pharmaceutical industry supplied by PR practitioners.  Based on content analysis of health items in a representative sample of magazines and interviews with magazine health journalists and their editors, the authors found that academic and medical experts were  the most important sources for journalists.  While the researchers found few explicit references to pharmaceutical industry sources, the interviews suggest that pharmaceutical PR creeps into health coverage in a more indirect and much more sophisticated manner, for instance by offering additional services such as contacts with scientists or patients. The authors concluded that the influence of pharmaceutical PR in magazine health news is stronger than would be expected based solely on quantitative analyses of editorial content.

Full citation: De Dobbelaer R , Van Leuven S, Raeymaeckers K. Dirty dancing: Health journalists and the pharmaceutical industry a multi-method study on the impact of pharma PR on magazine health. Public Relations Review (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2017.02.002

What’s at stake as GOP moves to slash regulations? For starters, clean air

Air pollution over Los Angeles. Credit

The linchpin of a new 87-page proposal being considered by Congress is a directive to regulators that may be impossible to meet, reports the LA Times.  Regulatory agencies would have to prove they have taken the least costly option possible to business before imposing any major new rule. A similar mandate became stifling when applied for decades to the regulation of chemicals such as asbestos because it allowed companies to keep rules at bay by continually arguing for cheaper approaches. “I don’t think lawmakers are focusing on how extreme this legislation is,” said Paul Billings, lobbyist for the American Lung Association, which has joined several major public health groups imploring congressional leaders to apply the brakes. “It has been viewed as this abstraction that creates improvements in the regulatory process. This would undermine bedrock public health laws.”