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January 20, 2010

With Obesity It's Not Just the Calories. It's the Chemicals

Michelle Obama hula hooping with kidsMichelle Obama's anti-childhood obesity agenda would have kids a little less round 'round the middle.White House Flickr streamWhile we await Michelle Obama's speech this Wednesday to the United States Conference of Mayors that will likely launch her new campaign against childhood obesity, I thought I'd offer a little perspective as well as a few bits of research that shed light on the enormity and complexity of the obesity epidemic.

First off, let's be clear: The First Lady will, of course, do everything she can to avoid picking a fight with Big Food -- I wouldn't be surprised to see corporate partnerships coming out of her efforts. Indeed, her team's first foray into the food policy arena, which included rumors of a White House embrace of former FDA Commissioner David Kessler's "junk food addiction" model for obesity, the president himself raising the possibility of a soda tax and the somewhat defensive posture of her policy team in an interview with NPR, were overshadowed by industry objections.

Even the most common-sense advice from her (drink water not soda, eat less processed food) prompted howls of outrage from food companies. We'll know for sure next week, but school food will probably be the focus of all her efforts. After all, school food is already the government's responsibility and even in the "reform-proof" Senate there is a fair amount of momentum for reducing access to junk food in the lunchroom and improving the quality of school food.

Unfortunately, the school environment is not the only one at issue for kids...

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