Kidney Stones In Kindergarten? Put Down the Sports Drink, Kiddo!

Today’s New York Times reports “A Rise in Kidney Stones Seen in U.S. Children,” naming high sodium intake of processed foods as one of the culprits, sending wee ones into urology clinics (no pun intended).

Ever since the multimillion dollar marketing blitz sanctifying sports drinks as a ‘better for you’ beverage I’ve watched kids chug down those colossal sized jugs of neon joy juice on playgrounds all over the country.

Not that there’s much ‘play’ on the grounds, since ‘running and tag’ are ‘off-limits’ half the time due to liability issues and any gear remotely tied to potential injury or a hint of sweat is usually removed after any exertion especially if junior lands on his keister and it’s all deemed ‘too dangerous’ (don’t get me started).

You certainly don’t have to be an MD or the NIH to see this coming down the pike: increased food marketing to kids + decreased activity and a heavy seepage of salt into the entire food supply? Hmn.

Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Caleb Nelson, who is also co-director of the new kidney stone center at Children’s Hospital Boston reports that kids as young as 5 or 6 are being treated for what used to be a middle-aged disease, and now the median age of children with stones is about 10. Just ducky.

Maybe all the fresh press coming out will give the issue the added media ‘umpf’ to get food marketers and industry suppliers to see the kidney stone causes linked to the ‘Appetite for Profit’ and see how it’s taking its toll on children.

After all, any playground volunteer watching the sacks of chips, snack packs and highly processed lunch foods pulled out at noon-time, or even a tame-looking Thermos of soup (which often has 50% of a child’s daily sodium intake in one can) will attest to the high salt trend embedded deep within the lifestyle habits and food chain.

That’s even before you add on the chug-a-lug athlete-wannabe coolness caché heavily promoted by marketers as a ‘healthier’ alternative to soda.

Even some schools, coaches and parents ‘drank the Koolaid’ and started offering these bright blue, vivid orange, purple, green, red jugs of sodium that resemble transmission fluid, Windex, and other toxic stuff when studies show there is NO NEED for extra salt supplements unless you’re exerting at full tilt for about an hour straight! (Lance Armstrong, yes, Johnny waiting in the outfield? No. Ditch the pouch packs and sports drinks to get ’em through the game!)

Regular readers know this is a hot spot for me, as we counter-market the hype-fest in our own Shaping Youth Snack Attack/Training Table games via our “Dare to Compare: Gross Out Game for Good Nutrition.”

We demo additives in sports and energy drinks via our ‘sim city’ simulation of unhealthy outcomes, and deconstruct the new items coming our way as fast as we can, challenging kids to ‘hunt’ for hidden clues of salt that are just as apt to be in their breakfast cereal…or salad dressing as in a bag of chips.

We use food label literacy to red flag ‘weasel words’ in product claims and watch words for ingredients, so that kids begin to recognize that salt is more than ‘sodium chloride’ in a list of callouts. Salt also takes the form of baking soda, baking powder, sodium nitrate/nitrite, MSG, etc. to add up to the ‘one tsp. max’ DV per day…

Our ‘train the trainer’ games that we’re turning into open source, short sheet downloads use fun, simple games like ‘Beverage Bingo’ and ‘Order Out’ using a desk service bell to ‘ding them out’ of the game as they choose their food from faux menus and hit their DV/sodium max.

Since restaurant foods often carry 75-80% of a day’s supply of sodium right off the bat their choices become clear REALLY fast. Ding! game over! You just used all your DV in one breakfast drive through! Or Ding! Soccer practice with those pouch packs and sports drinks just slammed your system; bland dinner for you!

It’s really quite a hoot, since once kids get the hang of it and start seeing how pervasive salt is, they see that it turns up everywhere and start educating their parents in kid-empowerment to influence the purchase power in a positive way.

Kids end up cleaning out the pantry for parents’ benefit too; turning into one of those “hey, hon, can I see that list of which soups have the most salt again before I go to the store?” 😉

To be fair, moderate amounts of sodium are NEEDED to balance water and minerals and help muscles and nerves work properly, but when fast foods, snack foods, and highly processed foods (canned, frozen, boxed, or bagged) become kids’ major intake instead of fresh, whole foods, sodium is bound to bump up to high levels WITHOUT adding a hydration fluid packed with same into the marketing mix. This is not rocket science, folks.

A child’s blood pressure points to where it will end up in adulthood, and since cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of Americans, reducing salt take intake is a given to avoid hypertension. (lower blood pressure + lower salt intake = lower rates of heart attacks and strokes as they age, ‘duh!’ as the kids might say!)

Kids “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos’ (which are ubiquitous in K-5 lately) use portion distorion on the labeling (3 oz. ‘serving’ which needs tripled for the bag, amounting to a wallop of 760mg. of sodium, about half the DV of sodium kids should have in their entire day…

And now that food marketers are trying to clean up their act with ‘BFY’ (better for you) foods to curb obesity…(yay!)—

I have to remind ALL that SODIUM is usually the number one swap-out additive that’s used to replace the flavor in fat free, reduced fat, and low fat items…So heads up!

Kids can end up with TRIPLE the amount of sodium intake recommended.

And? The development of a high salt preference in taste buds…And? An increased chance of hypertension, heart disease, stroke…And? Pediatric kidney stones.

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)) has red-flagged this for ages, (see sample sodium levels in kids food menus here) and Shaping Youth has been testing tactics like mad to see ‘what sticks’ in the persuasive peer power mindset…But I’ll admit, the ‘kidney stones in kindergarten’ development even surprised me. I never thought it would go ‘this far this fast,’ harming children’s bodies unchecked.

The New York Times’ Q&A with a urology specialist explains the ‘whys and how-to-treats‘ of pediatric stones, and their sidebar lists the 5 lifestyle changes to reduce risk) but the media skeptic in me immediately went to headcount, thinking,

“This must be an alarmist headline for sensationalism, how common can this be?'”

Ahem. Let’s just say one doctor in Nashville referred to his hospital as residing “in the stone belt” of southern states with two to three new pediatric cases a week, attributed to highly processed “high-salt, high-fat foods.”

The NYT article also mentions evidence that sucrose, found in sodas, can also increase the risk of kidney stones, as can high-protein weight-loss diets, which are growing in popularity among teenagers. sigh.

Sheesh! It’s no wonder the AMA is recommending that the FDA change the status of salt as ‘safe’ and develop regulatory measures to limit sodium in processed and restaurant foods.

So what can YOU do?

For starters, figure out ages and stages to be informed of your intake.

How much sodium is “ok” for a 9-13 year preteen child to consume?

Most children need no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. (Institute of Medicine & dietary intake guidelines that we sent home in our session listed btwn. 1500-2200 max)

CSPI has a great 4pp pdf called “Are Your Children Overdosing on Salt? What Every Parent Needs to Know!”

And before we hit the holiday food prep season, you might want to peek at CSPI’s 29 pp. pdf called “Salt Assault” which lists brand name comparisons of foods in different categories. Handy.

If you want to give counter-marketing a go, frankly, the food itself does the talking!!

Check out the sodium at left…I can’t tell you how many of these empties I see in the kids’ lunch trash cans and teachers lounges…not to mention collegiate dorm environs. (62% and 1480mg in ONE  ‘cup-o-noodles?’ Ding! Ding! You’re OUT!)

Shaping Youth’s posts on the sidebar under ‘counter-marketing’ will give you some of my favorite visual tactics we use to illustrate nutrient excess, from guessing games like spinning the ‘Wheel of MisFortune” to color cues and comparisons, that embed ‘perception as reality.’

Like? Our use of blue glass cleaner and blue sports drinks, both poured into a clear glass of Blue 1 brilliance…

We do the ‘shell game’ to make the psychological leap that kids need to PAY ATTENTION and KNOW what you’re ingesting in both mind and body. Whether it’s toxins, poisons, or behavioral cues, the “additive element” solidifies in their sharp brains, and the visual aids certainly ‘stick.’

I mentioned in my post, “Sugar and soda falter, now caffeine and sodium rule” how we’re ‘swapping out’ toxins by marketing dangerous doses to kids whose developing bodies should NOT be ingesting these high levels of additives, much less in concentrated concoctions that they’re slurping down as ‘healthy’ perceptions on the playing field.

And even though new industry reports show soda’s rate of decline has tripled in one year, the marketing machine has replaced the churn with energy joltsof caffeine, sports drinks of sodium and sugar, and ready-to-drink (RTD) teas and coffees…So:

We have kids create posters and keep track of their intake of “media, munchies, and meals” for just ONE week to observe the correlations and initiate the dialog about getting wise to what’s being marketed, and the ‘junk in, junk out’ concept, so they begin to acquire the enlightened, ‘sports drinks, who needs ’em?’ attitude to share their new knowledge with peers.

And…here’s our data to help you deconstruct a bright blue sports drink, like RD Lita Collins did for Shaping Youth here below…It can elicit the almighty ‘ewwwww’ and begin to look like ‘disease in a cup.’

Hey, toss in a few smooth stones to mimic crystallized oxalate/calcium, kidney stones, clink! clink!

And you’ve got a counter-marketing concoction for health sciences, sports clinics, after school programs, scout troop badges, or ‘dare to compare’ fun food games hosted in your own home! Here ya go…

Teaching Tools for Media Literacy on Food Dyes/Salt/Sports Drinks

FDA/Food Color Facts, 1993

CSPI Asks FDA For Food Dye Ban, June 2008

CSPI Stance: Citing a number of studies linking dyes and hyperactivity and behavior problems in children, Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, and Yellow 6 are being phased out in many areas in the U.K. said CSPI. They quoted FDA figures that say “the amount of food dye certified for use was 12mg per capita per day in 1955. In 2007, 59mg per capita per day, or nearly five times as much, was certified for use.”

Industry Stance via Food Bad Science Slams Salt

Junk Food Science: Food & Heart Attacks: Is a Link For Real? (excellent resource for evaluating studies and medical data in general, asking the media literacy question, ‘who’s behind the study’ consistently; wonder what she’d say on kidney stones, I think I’ll do a follow up interview!)

Shaping Youth Full Disclosure: I’ll be transparent and say, we purposely use dramatization as part of our counter-marketing to ‘drive the point home’ to kids, reinforcing natural vs. chemical, whole foods over processed, etc. and are huge fans of CSPI, so with that in mind, here’s an example of a simple item deconstruction.

Power Ade- Mountain Blast (Blue 1 Demo)

Nutrition Facts:
Serving size: 8oz
Servings per container: 2.5 (multiply nutrients accordingly)

Calories: 60
Fat: 0
Sodium: 55mg
Total carb: 17g
Sugar: 15g

Ingredients: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Maltodextrin, Citric acid, Natural flavors, salt, potassium citrate, modified food starch, coconut oil, potassium phosphate, sucrose acetate isobutyrate, blue 1.

What Do The Ingredients Do?

High Fructose Corn Syrup: Corn syrup treated with enzymes to make it sweeter (about 1.5 times as sweet as sugar). It is a combination of fructose and dextrose and is low cost.

Maltodextrin: Obtained by hydrolysis of starch. Combo of maltol and dextrin. Fewer calories than sucrose, safe.

Citric acid: Obtained from citrus fruit by fermenting of crude sugars. The most widely used acid in the cosmetics industry, it is also used to neutralize lye during the process of peeling vegetables, an adjuster of acidity and alkalinity, used to cure meats, firm up certain vegetables and prevent off tastes in fried potatoes. Also used to remove trace metals and brighten commercial products, as well as dissolve urinary bladder stones.

Salt: Can adversely affect people with high blood pressure or kidney disease. May contribute to osteoporosis: One report shows that a high salt diet does reduce bone density in girls.

While high salt intakes have been associated with detrimental effects on bone health, there are insufficient data to draw firm conclusions. May contribute to Hypertension (high blood pressure) “Since 1994, the evidence of an association between dietary salt intakes and blood pressure has increased. The data have been consistent in various study populations and across the age range in adults.” “The CMO [Chief Medical Officer] of England, in his Annual Report (DH, 2001), highlighted that people with high blood pressure are three times more likely to develop heart disease and stroke, and twice as likely to die from these diseases than those with normal levels.” Professor Dr. Diederick Grobbee claims that there is no evidence of a causal link between salt intake and mortality or cardiovascular events. One study found that low urinary sodium is associated with greater risk of myocardial infarction among treated hypertensive men.(articles: ^ High salt diet reduces bone density in girls ,^ Salt raises ‘stomach cancer risk’ ,^ Salt Manufacturers’ Association press release ,^ Michael H. Alderman; Shantha Madhavan; Hillel Cohen; Jean E. Sealey; John H. Laragh, Low Urinary Sodium Is Associated With Greater Risk of Myocardial Infarction Among Treated Hypertensive Men Hypertension 1995;25:1144-1152. ) Note: Links avail on request, citings didn’t transfer into WP format

Potassium citrate: A urinary alkalizer and gastric antacid. Used as a buffer in confections and artificially sweetened jellies.

Modified food starch: Ordinary starch that has been chemically altered to modify thickening and jelling properties. Babies have difficulty digesting starch in its original form, but modified food starch is used widely in baby food based on the theory that it is easier to digest. It is modified with many extremely dangerous and toxic chemicals, so safety questions have arisen. On top of the FDA’s list to reevaluate since 1980 but no progress has been made.

Potassium phosphate: Used as a color preservative and in the brewing industry as a yeast food in the production of champagne, a urinary acidifier.

Sucrose acetate isobutyrate: Used in nail polish (this one gets the kids everytime, as you can imagine!)

Blue 1 aka Brilliant Blue FCF: It has previously been banned in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland among others but has been certified as a safe food additive in the EU and is today unbanned in most of the countries. In the United States production exceeds 1 million pounds annually, and daily consumption is around 16 mg per person.



  1. I think you have a great blog! I have read it a few times before and just found it again b/c we both posted about the same article. I have a slightly different take though- I think the soda connection is an important one but not for the reason the author mentions:

  2. Debra, I just read your article above, and will excerpt your take on it for our readers, as it’s an important one to consider for certain!!

    “As Ms. Tarker mentions, toxic chemicals such as Melamine can cause kidney stones. But what about a less infamous ingredient: phosphoric acid. Phosphoric acid is added to colas to provide a tangy or sour taste. Phosphoric acid has been correlated to osteoporosis due to the fact that it can pull calcium from the bones. There is even some solid evidence to back this up. When compared to citric acid colas (i.e. Sprite), the phosphoric acid colas (even diet colas!) were more like to cause kidney disease. Colas have also been shown to cause changes in calcium-oxalte formation in the urine, which would further bolster this theory. Other theories are abound, including causes such as flouridated water and too much vitamin C supplementation- another reason why over-supplementing is a bad idea.”

    Since I’m not an RD like you are (or Rebecca is!) I’m using what research/knowledge I have, but let me tell you, I’m going to dig into “phosphoric acid colas” and Google it big time, (and send it to Rebecca to see if she can enlighten me!) for what you’ve presented here certainly makes solid sense!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, and I’ll definitely explore it further…(of course, my feeling is whether media and marketing are hawking soda, sports drinks or any other elixirs to kids, accountability and responsibility on the corporate end need to come into play in terms of a ‘moderation message’ rather than making it sound like they need to pound down all this ‘hydration’ to ‘replenish’ etc. etc.—Too much of a good thing and all that…Not that soda is EVER a ‘good thing’ mind you, but you know what I mean…;-)

  3. Four infants in China have died and at least 53,000 were reportedly ill, many seriously with kidney problems and kidney stones because the formula contained the industrial chemical melamine. The same industrial contaminant from China that poisoned and killed thousands of U.S. dogs and cats last year.

    Millions of pounds of this tainted powdered milk has been imported into the USA and that doesn’t include products made in China. Food manufacturers didn’t want to throw away this poison laced milk powder so they used it. The FDA has given companies the green light to put this poison into our food, but recommends not adding it to baby formula. The FDA is also withholding what products are poisoned.

    So the large increase in kidney stones being found in U.S. children is an intentional act by Major corporations and the FDA. It’s not salt or global warming. You and your children are being poisoned in the name of profit!

  4. Abram, thanks for the links…Marion Nestle is fabulous, and I just wanted to toss out the actual verbiage into the comment section since it’s so impt. for people to hear.

    Personally, I wouldn’t trust the FDA as far as I could throw it, nor any food stuff from China (I’m not xenophobic, simply pragmatic, for until the regulatory standards and controls are transparent and capable of adherence in all edible goods re: import-export, that’s just how I feel)

    So, yes…your points are well taken…Profiteering over public health has become “the American way” and needs to stop on all fronts…imho.

    Whether it’s marketing intentionally harmful goods or sneaking them in on the sly to avoid waste…we’ve all seen both, n’est ce pas?

    Vigilance. Caveat emptor. Action steps for food safety. And ongoing knowledge acquisition is key.

    Readers, here’s Marion Nestle’s article:

    “Q: Every day we hear about more foods from China with melamine. First it was infant formula, now it’s candy in New Zealand, croissants in Japan, M&M’s in South Korea, and coffee drinks in the United States. Explain, please.

    A: You may be puzzled, but I am appalled that melamine waste from Chinese plastic dinnerware is in so many foods, particularly infant formula. China admits to 54,000 cases, 14,000 hospitalizations and four deaths from kidney stones among infants fed formula laced with melamine. These numbers are undoubtedly underestimates.

    Melamine is in milk powder for only one reason: greed. You can dilute milk and cover up the dilution by adding melamine. The test for protein in foods looks for nitrogen. Melamine is 67 percent nitrogen (the rest is carbon and hydrogen). Nitrogen is used to make protein and shows up as protein on tests. You can get away with substituting melamine for protein unless food safety officials are checking for it. Clearly, they were not.

    They should have been. Milk adulteration has a long history and melamine has been fraudulently added to animal feed for at least 40 years. Most people never heard of melamine until last year’s pet food recall of 60 million cans and pouches. These contained an ingredient that caused kidney disease in cats and dogs. That ingredient turned out to be wheat flour laced with melamine. Some Chinese suppliers sold that adulterant in the guise of wheat and rice glutens.

    In researching my latest book, “Pet Food Politics,” I traced the history of melamine adulteration back to the 1960s when veterinarians in South Africa tried to use the chemical as a source of nitrogen for sheep. They thought that bacteria in the rumens of sheep could convert melamine nitrogen to body proteins. They were wrong. Melamine formed kidney crystals and killed the sheep.

    That finding did not stop unscrupulous producers from adding melamine to animal feed. This practice was so common in the 1970s that Italian scientists invented a test to look for “melammina” in fish feed. They found melamine in nearly 60 percent of the tested samples.

    As demonstrated by scientists at UC Davis, melamine itself is not particularly toxic to cats. But when it is mixed with one of its by-products, cyanuric acid, it forms crystals in kidneys at very low doses. It does so in infants, too.

    Ideal adulterant

    Melamine is a perfect adulterant. It is cheap and hard to detect. Remember Melmac dishes? These were so popular in the 1950s that you can still buy them on eBay. Most melamine dinnerware is now made in China. The process involves heat and formaldehyde and yields wastewater heavy with melamine and its by-products. To recycle the water, these chemicals must be removed. The resulting “scrap” is produced in prodigious amounts and is there for the taking.

    My guess is that unscrupulous Chinese producers have been adulterating foods with melamine for years, but the booming dairy industry provides a new opportunity. Milk is expensive. You can buy melamine scrap for practically nothing, substitute it for the proteins in foods – wheat gluten in pet food and milk in infant formulas – and sell these foods at the price of the real thing. That substitution is unlikely to be detected – unless you add so much melamine that pets or infants get sick.

    Let’s not, however, get too xenophobic about China.

    What’s happening there today is exactly like what happened in the United States during those heady late 19th century years of unregulated rapid industrialization and unbridled capitalism. Checks on rampant food adulteration only became possible after Upton Sinclair’s book, “The Jungle,” induced Congress to pass food and drug laws in 1906.

    Taking action

    The remedy is clear. Countries need to clean up their food safety programs. The challenge facing China is that 80 percent of its food is produced by small countryside operations. It must enact and enforce food safety regulations that apply to that system.

    We need to do everything we can to expedite such regulations. On our side, this means no-nonsense inspections, import refusals and trade agreements with tight safety provisions.

    It also means urging Congress to give the Food and Drug Administration resources adequate to do this job or, as some forward-thinking members have suggested, create a new food safety agency with the authority and resources to oversee the food supply from farm to table.

    While waiting for all this to happen, we have some choices.

    For the moment, it’s best to just say no to imported foods and ingredients supposedly made with milk or soy powder, unless they are certified free of melamine and other toxic contaminants. But for this, it helps to know where foods and ingredients come from.

    Ask before you buy

    As of September, Congress requires country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for many foods. Unfortunately, COOL has loopholes entire container ships could sail through. If you can’t find or don’t believe the origin of the foods you buy, ask. Let the stores, product manufacturers and your congressional representatives know that you care about where your food comes from. Tell them that you consider origin labels essential for protecting your family against unsafe food.

    I gave “Pet Food Politics” the subtitle “The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine” for good reason.

    Untold numbers of cats and dogs died last year from melamine poisoning. Their deaths should have warned governments to check for melamine in other foods and to enact and enforce more effective food safety regulations. We – and the Chinese – deserve better food safety oversight. In this era of food globalization, all countries need safety regulations more than ever.

    Marion Nestle is the Paulette Goddard professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. Her newest book, “Pet Food Politics” (University of California Press, 2008), is about the 2007 pet food recall. She is also the author of “Food Politics,” “Safe Food” and “What to Eat.” E-mail her at, and read her previous columns at

  5. Thank you for expanding on my post.

    I also noticed some of the things you pointed to. I’ll add another thing to consider.

    Aspartame breaks down to formaldehyde to methanol to formic acid in the body.

    searching “melamine formaldehyde methanol formic acid urea”

    returns as ingredients in plywood glue.
    This glue dries wet and thus can’t be stored. I don’t know enough about chemistry to know if this could be a factor.

    But it seems the FDA sets an acceptable level for everything without considering interactions. I wonder if a product could be made of almost all poisons, contaminations and approved by the FDA. That would make headlines, not to actually sell the product but to make a point. A product approved by the FDA that can’t be dumped at the landfill. There are acceptable levels for hair, urea, stool,…and on and on..

    One point not being contended is that if you take a healthy population in another country and feed them a western diet they will start to develop health problems none existent before the diet change.

  6. Here is a good melamine video with information links.

  7. Abram: All I know is you’re giving me some great counter-marketing material for our kids’ sessions in terms of visuals that ‘stick,’ and elicit the almighty ‘eewwwww’ to question what goes into their bodies and to raise awareness on assumption about consumption!

    One year we deconstructed the cochineal dyes (from squished cockroaches) used in bright yogurts and such in order to be legally called ‘natural’ (e.g. the red you see in Campari, etc.) and it was a definite ‘wow’ tool for dramatization.

    As for the healthy population/western diet issue, I’ve read tons of media about that very fact, though it’s been disputed elsewhere by analysts like Junk Food Science in this piece here:

    Thanks again for the links…keep ’em comin’! 😉 They’re certainly usable (that plywood glue is a keeper for sure)
    Appreciate the info…

    Now I’ll look into aspartame more…as I’ve been needing some good soda chem-cuisine data. –A.

  8. Thank you for taking the time to create and maintain this blog. It makes me glad to know that people like you take the time to educate others. This subject matter is one of the most controversial to hit the blogosphere, as it should be. It is interesting that your main focus is dealing with kidney stones. After reading many articles about kidney stones in children it is obvious to see that the issue of sodium content in foods needs to be addressed. Your comment, “To be fair, moderate amounts of sodium are NEEDED to balance water and minerals and help muscles and nerves work properly, but when fast foods, snack foods, and highly processed foods (canned, frozen, boxed, or bagged) become kids’ major intake instead of fresh, whole foods, sodium is bound to bump up to high levels WITHOUT adding a hydration fluid packed with same into the marketing mix,” does seem like it would be rocket science. If that is the case, why do you feel that parents are continuing to serve many of these foods as a major source? Recently, the Smart Choices Program was introduced to the public. For those not familiar, it is a program that is being adopted by many leading food companies, however, not regulated by the FDA. The statistics on the website state the sodium intake requirement is less than 480mg per serving.

    For example if a child’s lunch were to include a smart choices portion controlled bag of chips that contains 380mg, plus a turkey and cheese sandwich, an apple and a juice box, do you feel this would be a decent lunch in terms of sodium content? Given there are at least three meals a day? Given the facts you presented about incorporating balance into a diet as well as what the daily sodium a child requires is, do you feel this non-FDA approved program is a real well developed food regulation or a well positioned marketing campaign?

    I enjoyed reading this post and believe that due to your vast knowledge, you might have some great insight into these major food regulating and/or marketing questions.

  9. Hi Jamie, thanks for the thoughtful comment. I’ll address the marketing side of this from my perspective in-depth soon, and also forward it to our nutrition expert, Rebecca Scritchfield for analysis on the sodium front…

    I’ve addressed the salt issue many a time, and the parental one is a bit more complex as to ‘why these things perpetuate’ with purchasing power…(I’ll point you to our ‘Snack Attack’ counter-marketing post on peer pressure and the persuasion dynamics in play (lack of label literacy, etc. too)

    I’ve also done quite a few detailed analysis pieces on the issues I have about ‘self-awarded’ programs like “Smart Choices Made Easy” and “Sensible Snacking” and such, since often it’s simply a ‘better choice’ within the line of products the company already offers! (e.g. light chips instead of regular chips, etc.)

    This actually leads to FURTHER marketplace confusion imho, especially when they all start looking alike on product snipes and why-to-buys…I’ll get into those aspects in detail too…

    Meanwhile, dashing off to vote. Back atcha soon! 🙂

  10. Hi Jamie,

    First… check out my blog too about the different marketing/nutrition programs and many other nutrition related topics.

    I want to clarify your mention of chips. Most potato chips have 180 mg sodium per serving or less. Actually, it is one of the lower salt processed foods. Not saying everyone should eat a bag of chips a day. But so many times people have an “all or nothing” attitude and point out the wrong “culprits”.

    Also frozen veggies usually have low or no sodium – unless a seasoning packet is added. Frozen veggies – and sometime canned (there are low salt options) can be an economical way to get good nutrition (fiber, vitamins). I have a blog post on food processing.

    Another word about salt intake. People with high blood pressure, people taking blood pressure medications, or people with heart disease (previous heart attack, on a cardiac diet), and people with kidney disease not on dialysis may need a salt restriction — and the amount restricted is variable, but sometimes it is 2g sodium per day – or 2,000mg. This is not far off from the recommended limit of 2,400mg/day for healthy adults. Even in the hospital I worked in there were patients on a 4 g/day salt diet – 4,000mg and that is considered a restriction! By all means, a healthy person should follow the guidelines of 2,400mg a day to support heart health and maintain blood pressure. But the fact is that our bodies can handle salt. We excrete excess. Many chefs praise the ability of salt to add flavor depths to fresh, whole foods. Actually, it is weight, rather than salt, that contributes significantly to high blood pressure.

    I hope that clears up some misconceptions.

    As far as the smart choices program goes. I know very little about it. However, my hunch is that it is a way for food companies to follow one set of standards to provide “front of package” labeling of healthy food. This is a way for the industry to self-regulate to try to avoid government regulation. The different front-of-package nutrition marketing symbols have been under serious scrutiny.

    There is a benefit to self regulation. Government regulation costs money. Do we want limited FDA dollars and resources go toward unified standards for front of package marketing or protecting the food supply from contamination? I also think the best thing parents can do is realize that the only symbol that means something on the package is the pyramid/nutrition facts. If sales of the labeled foods decrease they’ll go off the market. Parents do want an easy way of choosing packaged foods, which is what helped spark all of this. Some of the labeling is useful. I see bean soup with a 14g fiber symbol on the front and I know it’s a good choice… but it is more about understanding that a high fiber diet is needed for good health. Make sense?

    Here’s a recipe idea:
    I personally like to make homemade baked sweet potato chips and regular chips. Just slice ’em thin spritz with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and bake at 400 for about 20 minutes. You can do fries the same way, but try using garlic, parsley and feta cheese with the fries.

  11. Thanks, Rebecca, for your RD professional take on this…and yes, I invite ALL to field nutrition questions HER way rather than mine, as I just noted on Jamie’s blog (above) that I’m just the marketing/branding geek.

    That said, I will say that industry ‘self-regulation’ may be worthy in theory, but we differ a bit in that I strongly believe that corporate competition will ALWAYS find a way to self-position ahead of the pack, which means that ANY kind of collaborative system put into play is at risk for a rogue member zinging off into superlative mode.

    As a mom and a media maven, I’d implore the FDA, FTC and all other regulatory parties to listen, hear and heed the concerns of consumers that are sick and tired of brand confusion and don’t want to have to be spending half our time at the grocery store trying to assess what’s REALLY a ‘smart choice’ or ‘sensible snack’ or whatever by wading through the mice type on the sidebar.

    This is where a simpler, quantifiable ‘system’ could level the playing field for purchasing power everywhere so that we ‘know at a glance’ what we’re buying without being lured into brandwashing terminology and ‘better for you’ label lingo that’s really hogwash.

    So, you can see, I differ a bit on this issue. All good questions to open dialog for solutions…

  12. Hi Amy and Rebecca,

    Thank you so much for responding to my questions and comments. As a music student at USC in Los Angeles, my studies focus mainly on music. However, I have a passion for food, food entertainment and health. This is the reason behind my blog as well as my interest in your organization.

    It is interesting to see Rebecca’s perspectives on how the FDA should use their funds. I can definitely see that point! However,I find myself really focusing on marketing and advertising.I am both fascinated and disgusted on how manipulating these techniques are. I spend a ridiculous amount of time in the grocery store looking at labels and packaging. Luckily, I am educated in nutrition enough to know what to look for.

    Again, thank you so much for your input. I will continue to follow both blogs and include them in my research.

    All the best,


  13. Thanks, Jamie…also, wanted to add this update in the Int’l Herald Trib today re: Kidney Disease Continues to Take its Toll:
    all about renal failure on the rise, etc.

  14. Well kidney stones in children is quite horrible but its not just colas. Powdered milk also has a lot of risk.

  15. Say what you want, but without the certainty of lawsuits and large judgments against corporations, companies would still be designing shoddy products that would damage children. Companies only care about the dollar. Lawyers and lawsuits play a significant part in keeping citizens safe.

  16. Spoken like a true lawyer. 😉 Actually, CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) has proven your point quite well when it comes to many FDA food liability issues and FTC/packaging claims. Thx for taking the time to comment.

  17. A complaint that is usual common in adults, affecting kids. Dehydration is one of the biggest causes of kidney stones but a diet high in phospahte drinks like sodas also incresase the risk of calcium phosphate stones. I wonder if this is a combination of the two. Instead of reaching for a glass or bottle of water, kids are all to quick to reach for the last sports drink!

  18. Agree…dehydration is huge (have unfortunately done that many a time due to migraine/nausea causal linkage) but what we put in our body (sports drinks/sodas) is at least something we can gain health literacy about to PREVENT it. Good point about calcium phosphate stones/sodas as well…

  19. Tobie Shankman says

    When you have kidney stones, the pain could be excruciating and pain killers would be necessary. ‘

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  20. Eshan Patel says

    Nowadays Kidney stone has become normal in children. It cannot be just because of powdered milk or anything else, it could be hereditary. Kidney Stone Treatment should be done on time by specialized urologist because the pain due to it can be violent. I would suggest to avoid painkiller in-case of children.

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