Soda bans vs. soda traffic lights

Well, limiting the size of soda containers probably won’t be all that effective, but some interesting research suggests a simple: green, yellow, red labeling system might have some meaningful impact.  Via the Atlantic:

Data released this week by the Massachusetts General Hospital describes the efficacy of a stoplight-style color-coding systemthat researchers applied to foods and beverages sold to hospital cafeteria-goers. Products were labeled as red, yellow, or green according to three main indicators:

  • How many of the item’s main ingredients contained either fruit, vegetables, whole grains, or low-fat dairy?
  • Did the item have a lot of saturated fat?
  • Did the item have a high caloric content?

Items that had healthier ingredients and less of the bad stuff were given a green label that advised diners to “consume often.” Items that had good and bad in equal proportions were given a yellow label; customers were told to consume these products “less often.” Items with a great deal of calories and saturated fat were given a red label. “There is a better choice in green or yellow,” diners were told. After launching the labeling system, the researchers then took the added step of moving things around so that the green-labeled items were more accessible.

After six months, the researchers found that the labeling initiative had succeeded in curbing red-item purchases, and it had even increased purchases of green products. Red-item purchases fell by 11 points. Green-item purchases rose by 6.6 points.

And the effect was especially large for beverages:

 “Overall, employees’ red beverage purchases decreased 23.8 percent during the Phase-1 labeling intervention,” the study’s authors wrote, “and they further decreased by 14.2 percent during the Phase-2 choice architecture intervention.”

This sounds great to me.  Let people have choices, but help steer them in the right direction.  Chances of something like this actually becoming a law in most places?  Pretty close to zero, I’d think.  The sugar and corn (i.e., high fructose corn syrup) would presumably fight like hell to prevent it.  And have the purveyors of saturated fat to help.  Looking at the full article, I am annoyed that high sodium alone gets a yellow, as salt is way oversold as a dietary bad guy.

Does Fox news make you stupid?

How could it not?  Seriously, a 5 minute segment complaining that Gabby Douglas was not patriotic enough because she wore a pink leotard in the individual all-around competition.  Help!


Photo of the day

Well, I’m not going to have much longer to post Olympic photos.  Love this set of “winning moments” from Big Picture:

Russia’s Ivan Ukhov reacts after winning the men’s high jump final on Aug. 7. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

State of the race

Nice summary from Nate Cohn on where things stand 90 days out:

Over the last four years, Obama’s coalition suffered deep enough losses to give his challenger a legitimate path to victory. But those losses were narrow and concentrated among white voters without a college degree, as Obama retains near-2008 levels of support among minorities and college-educated whites. As a wealthy former CEO of a private equity firm with an awkward cadence who could never call himself a great politican, Romney has never naturally appealed to white working class voters, and, as a result, Romney’s ability to capitalize on Obama’s biggest weakness requires him to overcome his own.

With three months to go, these weaknesses are as pronounced as ever. The Obama campaign adopted a strategy to remedy their weakness among white working class voters by defining Romney as an out-of-touch, outsourcing plutocrat willing to close factories, fire workers, and avoid taxes to advance his self-interest. If the Romney campaign possessed effective tools to blunt Obama’s offensive, they weren’t properly employed. Instead, the Romney campaign inexplicably focused on attacking a well-defined incumbent president, while permitting Obama and his allies to broadcast unflattering and uncontested tales about an undefined challenger.

Boston’s ill-advised strategy has endangered Romney’s chances. Romney’s unfavorable ratings remain high and he hasn’t yet consolidated the disaffected white working class voters with reservations about Obama’s performance.

That all strikes me as about right.  I think Romney’s biggest problem– as Cohn highlights– is working to appeal more to the middle without losing the conservative base:

Romney’s deficient conservative credentials limit his ability to tack to the center, a move which would have served him extremely well. Boston’s inability to effectively rebrand their candidate—despite sustained unpopularity since he ascended to national prominence—raises the question of whether they’re capable of improving his image at this late stage. If they couldn’t make Romney popular before, how will they do it now?

Not too long ago, I thought Romney really might win this thing.  It is still a definite possibility, but at this point, I think a fair-minded analysis would have to agree with Cohn’s conclusion: advantage Obama.

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