May 27, 2010

Let's Move Needs to Get Real with the Food Industry
Michelle Obama's anti-obesity initiative, Let's Move, has kicked into high gear. The Presidential Task Force on Childhood Obesity released a landmark report documenting the scale of the problem, complete with a list of 70 recommendations and a set of benchmarks, including the goal of returning the childhood obesity rate to its 1972 level of 5% by 2030. And
this week came the announcement that a new industry partnership called the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, which includes most of the major food companies, agreed to reduce the number of calories in its members' products by 1.5 trillion calories by 2015.

It would be churlish of me to downplay the significance of either the report or the industry announcement. As nutritionist Marion Nestle observed, whatever skepticism one may rightly have regarding industry self-regulation, the fact that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation -- whose public health credentials in general and anti-obesity efforts in particular are beyond reproach -- will be auditing the calorie-cutting plan should keep industry shenanigans to a minimum.

But what will a 1.5-trillion calorie cut look like? In an article that helpfully explains how companies might go about reaching their goal -- lower-calorie Lunchables! Smaller Kraft Cheese slices! -- former food industry executive Hank Cardello puts
the cuts into context

...[T]his is a drop in the bucket and represents only a 0.5 percent reduction in the 300 trillion calories available for Americans to consume each year. That translates to less than 1.5 pounds of added weight per person. Hardly enough to resolve an obesity crisis.

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