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Proposed FDA rule on trans fats could bring costly reformulations for many common foods

BY Alaric DeArment

A proposed rule from the Food and Drug Administration would effectively eliminate artificial trans fats from foods in the United States by classifying partially hydrogenated oils as unsafe food additives and thus permitting them only in certain cases.

In its proposal, the FDA emphasized that it would give manufacturers of foods that contain trans fats enough time to reformulate their recipes in order to minimize market disruptions by spreading out the initial cost of about $8 billion over a number of years. While trans fats have been eliminated from most foods already, foods that still contain them include frozen pizzas, microwave popcorn, margarines and some dessert foods.

According to SymphonyIRI, frozen pizzas had sales of $4.4 billion in 2012, while the Popcorn Board, a Chicago-based trade group, states that 995.6 million pounds of unpopped popcorn — including microwavable popcorn — were sold in 2012. About 16 billion pounds of popcorn are consumed in the United States annually, and of the 70% of popcorn that’s consumed in the home, 90% is unpopped.

In other words, regardless of how much time manufacturers have to change their products, removing trans fats would constitute a pretty big change for many important product categories, and a potentially costly one for individual manufacturers. According to Time magazine, a number of popular foods will change after trans fats are removed, such as doughnuts, which could become more oily, or popcorn, which may begin to include real butter. But all manufacturers of foods that currently contain trans fats will have to find new ways to make them while keeping them as similar as possible to the way they were before.

At the same time, it’s well-known that artificial trans fats are a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, and the FDA’s proposal — despite drawing praise from health organizations and public figures like New York mayor Michael Bloomberg — follows a long string over the past decade of efforts to limit them. In 2003, Denmark became the first country to ban trans fats nationally; the FDA began requiring them to be listed in nutritional information charts on foods in 2006; New York City banned them from restaurants in 2007, and California banned them statewide in 2008. Restaurants and retailers have been getting rid of them too: McDonalds, Burger King and KFC have all taken them off the menu, and Walmart has notified manufacturers to get rid of them by 2015. And following the FDA’s announcement, public health officials in Australia proposed banning them there.

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Food Lion announces discount for active military, veterans on Veterans Day

BY Antoinette Alexander

SALISBURY, N.C. — In honor of Veterans Day on Monday, Nov. 11, Food Lion has announced that its stores will offer a 10% discount to active and retired military personnel to show their support and appreciation for those who currently are serving or have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
 
“Food Lion proudly supports the men and women who have courageously served our country,” stated Beth Newlands Campbell, president of Food Lion. “On this day when Americans pay tribute to those who protect the freedoms we enjoy every day, we want to honor those who have served our country, and their families, who have made many sacrifices through their military service.”

To receive the discount, active military, reservists and veterans should present their MVP card at checkout and request the discount.

In addition to the in-store discount, the company also is supporting the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that honors and empowers wounded heroes. Customers also may contribute to the Wounded Warrior Project by purchasing specially marked items in Food Lion stores, or purchasing a chip clip or bracelet at the register for $1.

Food Lion is a longstanding supporter of its military associates and customers. The company provides numerous employment benefits to military associates, adopts families of colleagues who have been called into active duty and donates food and volunteer time at community military events.

In 2010, Food Lion was honored with the Department of Defense’s highest honor for employers, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves Freedom Award, for its programs and services for military associates. 

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2014: Year of the clinic as ‘rubber meets the road’

BY Antoinette Alexander

In a new study, which was published in the November issue of Health Affairs, researchers looked at retail clinics and found that eliminating restrictions on nurse practitioners’ scope of practice could lead to lower healthcare costs.

Again, 2014 will be the year for clinics. Why? Because this is where the rubber meets the road and clinics are an important solution in healthcare reform.

As FierceHealthcare reported, researchers found that if retail-based clinic visits make up for 10% of all outpatient primary care visits by 2015, national cost-savings would be $2.2 billion. If nurse practitioners in all 50 states practiced independently, that would add on an additional $810 million. That savings could grow even more — by $472 million — if nurse practitioners could prescribe on their own too. That is significant.

And then there’s the $300 billion dilemma — medication nonadherence. With a primary care shortage already plaguing the nation and millions of Americans set to enter the healthcare system due to health care reform, nurse practitioners are taking a central role in helping patients stay on therapy, according to Manhattan Research’s Taking The Pulse Nurses 2013 study.

In fact, Manhattan Research found:

  • Nearly 9-out-of-10 NPs provide patients resources to help them stay on track with their medicines, and 3-out-of-10 NPs have referred them to digital adherence tools such as websites or apps;
  • Almost half of NPs said the time they spend on patient education has increased over the past two years; and
  • More than 3-out-of-5 NPs said patient outcomes are a top priority in their practice for the next one to two years.

The reality is that retail-based health clinics — and the nurse practitioners who work in them — are an important player within the changing healthcare landscape. Clinics are providing patients with greater, more convenient access to care, and that is leading to lower costs.

This point was illustrated during CVS Caremark’s 2012 Analyst Day meeting. For example, CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic is collaborating with the company’s PBM business to help meet members’ healthcare needs. One way this is playing out is through a reduced co-pay pilot where clients can change their benefits structure to offer a reduced or no co-pay at MinuteClinic in order to lower overall healthcare costs, Andrew Sussman, SVP and president of MinuteClinic, told analysts.

The clinic operator also has been working to expand its scope of services to include biometric screening programs, wellness programs for weight loss and smoking cessation, as well as on-site clinics for clients. Sussman said he expects these programs “to grow significantly over the next five years, as the need for low-cost accessible care intensifies.”

Another way in which the company is helping to drive down costs is by partnering with health plans to help prevent hospital readmission. Hospital readmissions due to not properly taking medication affects nearly 3.5 million patients and results in about $15.2 billion dollars in healthcare costs each year.

How does MinuteClinic come into play? After hospital discharge, if a patient has been classified as “medium risk” for readmission, an appointment can be scheduled at MinuteClinic within a week after discharge to counsel and ensure the medications are correct, explained Troyen Brennan, EVP and chief medical officer for CVS Caremark, during the 2012 Analyst Day meeting.

“With the increasing focus on cost of care in a new environment, our prescription of better health care through innovative pharmacy care is timely and resonant. Finally, the expanded role of providers in population management will demand cohesion, connectivity and convenience, all of which we are prepared to deliver,” Brennan told analysts.

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