AUDIO: Cutting down on Food Waste

LISTEN: On Thursday, June 6, 2019, UPenn PRC director Karen Glanz participated in a discussion on Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School, Penn’s Sirius XM station, on the FDA’s attempts to make best by dates less confusing for consumers and thus cut down on food waste. The conversation included the show’s host, Dan Loney, and Catherine Donnelly of the University of Vermont. They discussed a standardized “Best if used by” date on food labels, in order to give consumers a clear idea of a packaged food product’s shelf life. Click the link above to hear the conversation.

This broadcast originally aired on Sirius XM Channel 132, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School.

In the past there have been different terms used to communicate to consumers and retailers about packaged food products, like “use before,””sell by” and “packaged on,” etc. It can be confusing to consumers when it comes to storing, using and disposing of these products. “About 40% of the food that is produced in the United States is prematurely discarded and 20% is due to confusion around these date labels, ” says Donnelly. “Creating the standardization will get us all back on the same page. This is a great start to get us all back to a common area and from there we can disseminate more information that can get down to more specifics about potentially hazardous foods, shelf-stable products, etc.”

“There are layers on top of layers here, and when you talk about how we relate to food compared to 20 – 30 years ago, we’re cooking much less, so we’re relying more on combination foods, processed foods, packaged foods,” says Glanz. “I can only hope that the FDA and the federal agencies don’t stop at making this standardization suggestion to industry, but carry on with education efforts, working with the USDA, and existing organizations. I also hope they will support additional research.”

Learn more about the suggested standardization here.

AUDIO: Knowledge@Wharton:Kevin Volpp on How Behavioral Economics Could Solve America’s Health Care Woes

UPenn PRC Director Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD, appeared on Knowledge@Wharton with Dan Loney to discuss health care reform and how behavioral economics help explain the challenges of insuring the largest number of people possible. Dr. Volpp and Dartmouth professor Jonathan Skinner addressed these issues in a JAMA Viewpoint “Replacing the Affordable Care Act: Lessons from Behavioral Economics

“I think a big part of the Affordable Care Act, in terms of increasing coverage, was to think about the underlying incentives of why people are not buying coverage,” said Volpp. “For many people, it frankly just comes down to weighing the expected costs and benefits in the short term, and concluding that the short-term benefits to people who weren’t buying coverage were less than what their coverage would have cost.”

“The way the Affordable Care Act tried to deal with that was by subsidizing the cost of coverage by providing people who are low income with fairly generous subsidies. That’s a carrot-type incentive. In addition, they included a stick-type incentive in the form of an individual mandate, whereby people were required to buy insurance. If they didn’t buy insurance, they’d have to pay a financial penalty. One thing we could critique is that this mandate probably wasn’t strong enough. It started out at about $200. Eventually it became about $700. That’s much less than the cost of the cheapest plan. An individual could quite rationally conclude, “I’m willing to pay a $700 penalty. I’m not willing to pay $4,000 or more for my coverage.”

Volpp added,”There’s generally an acknowledgement that subsidies alone may not be enough to get people to sign up. There’s a well-documented literature in behavioral economics that carrots are weaker than sticks. People tend to be very loss-averse. Subsidies alone probably will not work in terms of getting sufficient people to enroll in these marketplaces.”

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AUDIO: Karen Glanz: the Marketing of Junk Food on Knowledge@Wharton

UPenn PRC Director Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH, was interviewed with Penn Professor Jason Riis by Dan Loney on Knowledge@Wharton about how major brand marketing favors junk food over healthy food options in the consumer marketplace.  “Food production companies are in the business of making profit, not making healthier food,” Glanz noted, adding that short-term corporate expectations based on quarterly earnings hinder a long-term strategy to build consumer relationships with healthier food choices.

“Do they market healthy foods as heavily as unhealthy foods? Do healthy foods get the same bells and whistles and kid-friendly appeals as the bad stuff?” Glanz questioned, adding that the build-up of consumer dependence on salt, sugar, and fat has taken place over many years, a result of research and marketing that targets those taste cravings in consumers.

Glanz observed there has been more success in the promotion of low and zero calorie drinks and bottled water. “The beverage market is interesting and has a different trajectory than the food and snack market,” says Glanz. “Calorie-free drinks are well-established.  They sell less but sell well.”

Glanz also gave a nod to former First Lady Michelle Obama’s healthy eating and Let’s Move initiatives. “The First Lady’s signature programs have been a catalyst for promoting health. They’re two sides of the same issue.”

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VIDEO: Jason Karlawish on Understanding Alzheimer’s @Penn 2016 Alumni-Faculty Exchange

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UPenn PRC researcher and Penn Medicine physician Jason Karlawish was one of the top Penn experts taking part in a day-long series of health research-related presentations for the 50th anniversary gathering of the Penn Class of 1966.

Karlawish addressed the challenges that Alzheimer’s disease presents to science and society. “The other area of research we’re doing, in addition to better ways to diagnose or treat the disease is to figure out better ways to learn how to live with the disease and address some of the emotional, social and cultural challenges we face as we push these diagnoses into increasingly more normal and non-clinically significant stages.”