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Childhood Obesity, GMOs Top 2013's Food News Stories

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our Health Issues page.

In a year when several new "Let's Move!" initiatives by First Lady Michelle Obama generated widespread media coverage, it's perhaps not surprising that fighting obesity in children was the food-related story that generated both the most awareness and the most concern among Americans during 2013, according to Hunter Public Relations's 11th annual Food News Study.

In last year's food news survey, the First Lady's Let's Move! campaign ranked sixth in awareness, although "healthier school lunches" news ranked fourth. Last year's top three in awareness were 2012's Midwest drought and accompanying jumps in crop/food prices, revelations about "pink slime" in beef, and issues surrounding genetically modified organisms/GMOs in food.

In awareness terms, 2013's #2 and #3 stories were the short-lived absence and subsequent revival of iconic Hostess Twinkies, and New York City's ban of large-size sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages (the soda ban came in #9 in 2012). However, while 90% of respondents were aware of these much-covered and debated stories in 2013, just 10% and 14% expressed concern, respectively, about Twinkies or the soda ban.

Also in 2013's top five for awareness: labeling of GMOs, and reports alleging medical emergencies and deaths related to consumption of Monster and other energy drinks (the FDA is still examining the safety of such beverages).

After childhood obesity, the stories rated highest for concern were GMO labeling, crops and climate change, the energy-drink controversy, and the U.S. farm bill. (The farm bill is still languishing in Congress, although a threatened spike in milk prices that got wide coverage now appears unlikely, at least through January.)

Food safety issues of one kind or another ranked among the top three stories in awareness for the past six years, but none (unless you count GMO labeling) made the top five this year. Similarly, for the first time in five years, food prices failed to make the top-in-awareness list, although 34% of respondents reported that they are doing more food-price comparison shopping in 2013.   
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