Emerging Trends: June 2013

Published in FSD Update

Beverage bans, Affordable Care Act and citywide composting rules.

> Caffeine Additives

Not so fast with those heavily caffeinated energy drinks and candies. The FDA’s investigation has put a chill on their rollout. After speaking with the FDA, Wrigley decided to shelve its caffeinated Alert Energy Gum. One stick of the proposed gum would have about as much caffeine as a half cup of coffee. The company originally billed the product for consumers who “are looking for a portable solution that lets them control their caffeine intake.” Upon hearing of the launch, the FDA’s ears perked, and it initiated an investigation into products with added caffeine to determine the potential health impact, particularly in younger consumers.

> Hospitals Brace for Affordable Care Act

As a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), hospitals are looking for ways to cut their costs by up to 20%, according to Donald Wegmiller, chairman and co-founder of C-Suite Resources, a company that provides educational and strategic insights for companies in the healthcare industry. During a webinar for the Association for Healthcare Foodservice, Wegmiller said clinical nutrition would be vitally important for hospitals under the act.

Nearly 50% of patients admitted to acute-care hospitals are malnourished, Wegmiller said a recent study found. Pre-existing malnutrition issues contribute to the risk of hospital-acquired conditions such as surgical site infections. In addition, a patient’s nutritional decline during hospitalization increased the average cost of that stay by 60%, Wegmiller said. So Wegmiller suggested that clinical dietitians need to take a proactive approach. Why not go out into the community and provide nutrition education so that people might be less likely to be admitted into a hospital with a pre-existing nutrition problem? Wegmiller asked.

Nutrition therapy after patient admission has also proven to be a cost-effective strategy. Recent studies showed there was a 50% reduction in avoidable re-admissions and nearly two days were shaved off the average length of patient stays as a result of nutrition therapy. Wegmiller said many corporate leaders were unaware of these studies, so he suggested that foodservice directors ensure that their c-suite directors knew about the positive role clinical nutrition could play in reducing re-admissions and hospital cost.

> Food Allergies in Kids Increasing

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more kids have food allergies than 15 years ago. The survey found that one in 20 U.S. children has a food allergy, a 50% increase from data in the 1990s. You might want to take the numbers with a grain of salt, however. To gather data, researchers asked parents if their children had any kind of food allergy in the last year. The parents were not asked if that allergy had been diagnosed by a doctor.

> Austin Enacts Composting Rule

Foodservice businesses in Texas’ capital will be required to compost food scraps starting in 2016, following new rules passed by the city council in April. Foodservice establishments—including cafeterias, bars and fast food chains—that are bigger than 5,000 square feet must separate organic and compostable materials from other trash and pay to have them picked up by private haulers. Smaller businesses will have to comply in 2017. The city’s trash companies do not collect compostable goods, and there are currently only a handful of companies in the city that handle compostable material, according to the American-Statesman. Foodservice businesses also must recycle materials such as paper, plastics and aluminum. The city hopes these rules will help it meet its zero-waste goal by 2040.

> Made in America

Could there be more B&I foodservice locations in the coming years? According to Time, 500,000 manufacturing jobs were created in the past three years. “It marks the first time in more than a decade that the number of factory jobs had gone up instead of down,” the magazine wrote. Companies like Apple, JetBlue and Dow Chemical are opening new plants in the U.S. Will that growth translate into more foodservice programs as well?

> Produce Losing Health Value?

We’ve all been told to eat your fruits and vegetables, but what if those items aren’t as good for you as they were 50 years ago? A new study from the University of Texas at Austin found that there have been significant declines in the nutritional value of vegetables and fruits, when compared to half a century ago. The reason is your classic fight for space. Ronald R. Davis, author of the study, found that as crop yield increased, more plants were being grown in a finite space, meaning more plants had to fight for the soil’s limited nutrients.

> Size Distortion

Studies have shown that people often have a distorted view of themselves when they look in the mirror. A new study suggests that parents carry over that same prejudice when looking at their children. Only 15% of parents said their children were overweight, according to a survey conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Harvard School of Public Health and NPR. In reality, 32% of children are overweight or obese, the researchers said. The study also asked parents what the barriers were to helping their children maintain a healthy weight.

Thirty-three percent cited school meals as a challenge.

> District to Kids: Pay Lunch Accounts or No After-school Activities

Getting students and families to pay their overdue lunch accounts is not a new problem for school foodservice operations. One Ohio school district is trying a new tactic: restrict students from extracurricular activities until the account is paid up. The Switzerland of Ohio Local School District, in Woodsfield, Ohio, said students who owed more than $50 in lunch bills would not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities. According to WTOV9, the district’s Superintendent Larry Elliot said many parents have paid up their accounts since the announcement.

> London School Bans Non-water Beverages

In a move some students are calling a return to Prohibition, one London school has banned soft drinks from campus. Students are not allowed to drink or even bring soft drinks to school. The school, Acland Burghley School, in Tufnell Park, also banned fruit juices because teachers wanted to avoid any confusion over whether a colored beverage was a soft drink or not, according to The Irish Times. Since February, the school has been a water-only facility. The soda ban was enacted because school administrators said students were drinking too many fizzy or sugary drinks, which they said increased students’ weight and led to tooth decay.

“I can count on one hand the number of districts that have dropped out of the National School Lunch Program because of the new meal regulations.”

—Janey Thornton, deputy undersecretary for the USDA’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. Thornton was speaking at The Culinary Institute of America’s third annual Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids conference in San Antonio last month.