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Thursday, April 28, 2011

See Rome and Live... Healthier

I just got back from Italy, and while we were there, I noticed that people, in general, are definitely thinner. Here's some of the factors I attributed this to:
  • Much more walking. High gas prices and very little parking mean that people walk more to get to where they want to go.
  • No fast food chains. Yes, they do have McDonald’s, Burger King and others, but not on every corner as seems to be the case in the U.S. In their place are cafes, hundreds of them, that serve coffee every way you can imagine, freshly made sandwiches, pastry and gelato. I didn’t see a single fried item the entire time in Italy.
  • Sodas? Yes, Coke and all its friends were everywhere, but not in your face as it seems in the U.S. And I didn’t see a lot of people drinking them.

While I don’t eat very much fast food and drink very little soda, it always amazes me that there are so many people who can’t seem to live without their daily fast food/soda fix. (I've read stats that say the average American eats fast food as much as six times a week and average soda consumpstion as high as a 1/2 gallon a day!) In Italy I saw an entire country of people who are apparently doing just fine without massive intakes of fast food and/or soda.

So what drives Americans to eat enormous amounts of fast food washed down with copious quantities of sugary drinks? Have we fallen prey to big business’s fast food advertising? When traveling or in a hurry, is it easier to get a burger, fries and a soda or a freshly made sandwich with some fruit and water? In Italy, it seems they have opted for the later. Why can’t we do it here as well? It seems we would all be better off if we did.


Friday, April 22, 2011

A Step in the Right Direction -- Getting Rid of High Fructose Corn Syrup

In Arlo Guthrie’s old song from the late 60s, you would have heard that you can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant, but not so anymore. On a recent trip to Half Moon Bay, my husband and I stopped off for breakfast at Alice’s Restaurant in Woodside. I was pleasantly surprised to find an excerpt from the Half Moon Bay Review dated March 23, 2011, entitled “Alice’s swaps corn syrup for real sugar.”

According to the article, the owners of the restaurant have gotten rid of all the traditional sodas such as Coke and 7-Up and replaced them with natural sodas that don’t contain high fructose corn syrup. The change was prompted by their concerns about the obesity epidemic. Not only have they put an end to high fructose corn syrup in their offerings, but they have replaced unhealthy foods with organic, locally sourced products. They’ve even brought in a pastry chef who uses organic flour and less processed sugar.

Though some of their other changes have resulted in a 30-40% increase in prices, their new natural sodas produced using beet sugar cost them half the price. Wouldn’t it be nice to see more businesses opt to go in this direction? By cutting into the profits of Big Soda, maybe it would force them to produce a better product, one that consumers will consider a special treat and not their sole daily intake of liquids.

So even if you can’t get everything you want at Alice’s Restaurant anymore, you can now get a better-for-you soda.



Thursday, April 21, 2011

State Soda Tax Could Be Lifeboat for Fiscally Strapped Counties

For cash-strapped counties struggling to fund vital programs, the state’s proposed soda tax (AB 669-Monning) could be a lifeboat, according to a new county-by-county analysis of how that revenue would be returned to local communities. The proposed penny an ounce tax on sugary beverages would raise an estimated $1.7 billion annually in California. The bulk of those funds – 85 percent or $1.4 billion – would be returned to counties proportional to their population to pay for education and children’s health programs.

“Local communities will be the direct beneficiaries of a soda tax,” explains Dr. Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which conducted the study to better understand how the monies will be allocated. “A soda tax would return about $233 per student in the county to programs aimed at protecting the health and well-being of children. That’s a smart investment.”

Local schools will be the biggest winners of a soda tax, with about 60 percent of local funds going to the classroom and an additional 20 percent to help pay for improvements to physical education and provide nutritious school meals. AB 669 also carves out another 20 percent of the local funds to pay for local children’s programs like youth sports and afterschool programs.

To learn more about the study and see how much money would go to your county, visit the CCPHA website at:

Monday, April 11, 2011

One million servings of Coca Cola products are consumed every minute and other sobering facts about sugary drinks

Public health officials, doctors, teachers, children's health advocates and parents are up against stiff competition to get Americans addicted to liquid sugar to rethink what they drink. Here is an insight into how one soda company, at least, thinks and their goals for your health.

Wendy Clark, Coca Cola's head of integrated marketing and communications, recently spoke at a Digital Conference sponsored by Ad Age. She proudly reported the following stats:
  • Coca Cola sells 1.7 billion servings of its products every day which computes to 1 million servings a minute
  • Even though it took 124 years years for the company to build to these sales figures, their goal is to double sales to 3 billion servings a day by 2020
  • Coke is in 200 countries around the world, more than the United Nations
  • Everything -- from the can to the delivery truck -- is an ad for Coke products
  • The company's global fleet of vehicles is double the size of FedEx and UPS combined
  • The world's most valuable brand knows how to use social media; there are 24 million fans on Coke's FaceBook who are networked to 585 million FaceBook fans
  • The world's fourth largest employer has 700,000 "system associates" charged to be ambassadors for the brand; of them 2,700 people work in marketing
Some loud factions scream about the sanctity of preserving personal choice and that everything else -- removing sodas from schools, God forbid introducing a soda tax -- is "nannygate" government.

I believe in personal choice too if the playing field were even. However, when it comes to the sugary drinks, the playing field is drastically lopsided in favor of the soda companies. I think I'll get a glass of water now.

~ Paula 

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Real Final Four

The Final Four is here this weekend, and the country is excited to see who will be in Monday’s national championship game. Whatever happens in the Final Four games, the championship game is going to be a traditional powerhouse (UConn or Kentucky) vs. a lesser-known underdog (VCU or Butler). Believe me, I’ll be watching the games, but there’s another annual tournament filled with traditional powerhouses that I’m even more excited to see the outcome for: The Consumerist Worst Company in America 2011.

It’s down to the Sweet 16, and all the heavy favorites like Walmart, Comcast, Ticketmaster and BP are still in the running. To try and avoid a repeat Worst Company in America title, Comcast has even gone as far as to send out an email to its employees to vote for the other companies. But this year it's anyone’s game. Between the reputation of Bank of America and the oil spills produced by BP, there are some heavy hitters in line for this title.

It will be especially exciting from a PR standpoint to watch how the winning company responds to a Worst Company in America title. Will they acknowledge their downfalls and strive to do better, will they criticize the Consumerist for such a petty ploy to disgrace a company or do they just sit back and act like nothing happened? We’ll find out soon. 

So fill out those brackets and cast your votes, you decide the winner. I’ve got Walmart, Ticketmaster, BP, and AT&T in my Final Four this year, with BP squeezing out a victory over Ticketmaster in the championship. But in the end, we consumers are the losers. With little to no real competition, these companies that we gladly laugh at and call the worst are the one’s laughing all the way to the bank.