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Is that right? Food manufacturers to cut calories by 2015

Predictably, the announcement on Monday by a coalition of 16 food manufacturers that they would cut 1.5 trillion calories from their products by 2015 met with some cynicism from those who question the group's motives. Are they really interested in helping fight obesity, or are they just dodging government regulation? And their timing--the pledge came days after Michelle Obama unveiled her blueprint for ending childhood obesity, which spelled out tough changes the food industry should make.


The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation membership includes more than 80 restaurants, trade organizations, retailers, nonprofit organizations and food and beverage manufacturers, including the 16 who made the calorie-reduction pledge. In its news release the group said the initiative "will give Americans options to reduce their calorie intake, improve their overall nutrition and close the energy gap."

And here's the Foundation's mission statement: "Our mission is to try to help reduce obesity -- especially childhood obesity -- by 2015."

"Try to help"? Sure, there's fodder for cynicism there. But rather than pick on these companies, who at least seem to be making an effort, why not target all the other companies out there who are still sitting this out?

For instance, though the Foundation includes restaurants among its members, no restaurants are involved in the new campaign. If you need something to feel cynical about, read this statement about the Foundation members' pledge from the National Restaurant Association. Here's what the NRA's president Dawn Sweeney is quoted as saying:

We congratulate the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation for their leadership in reducing calories from the food supply. Such efforts will have tremendous impact on the caloric consumption of the entire population. This will assist the restaurant industry's efforts to support the goals of the First Lady's Let's Move initiative to reduce childhood obesity. The new and reformulated products will become part of the food supply chain, which is key to helping restaurants continue to increase healthy and nutritious offerings for our customers.
It is innovative actions like the one announced today that will provide consumers with more choice, and allow individuals to make better selections for themselves and their families.
We recognize and support the importance of providing healthful options and nutrition information to consumers. We look forward to continuing our industry's dialogue with the Let's Move campaign on the steps the restaurant industry can take to aid in this effort.

That sounds like a lot of congratulating, recognizing, supporting and looking forward -- and buying time while someone else takes the lead.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  May 21, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Is That Right? , Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity  
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Comments

I'd bet that the food companies will accomplish this solely by reducing the serving size listed on the Nutrition Facts label to an even more ridiculously low level than they currently are.

Posted by: dfl1 | May 21, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Yes, let's "target" those other companies. And let's get more government involvement! Hectoring from the White House, regulations, statutes, let's have it all! Let's have our ketchup changed because some guy in NYC thinks you consume too much sodium. Let's have multinational corporations give in without a fight to those who know better than you what you should be eating.

Let's all just eat tofu. Because some legislator, bureaucrat, or other do-gooder is trying to tell you how to live. I mean, trying to help you see the error of your ways. I mean, trying to help you.

Remember, government knows best, and they have only your interests at heart.

Posted by: asdf2 | May 21, 2010 11:26 PM | Report abuse

2010---2015---- plenty of time to maim, fatten a few million more. The hospitality business the only one out to destroy its clientele---cook your own!

Posted by: hart0007 | May 22, 2010 4:41 AM | Report abuse

I agree with dfl1 that the food manufacturers will reduce portion sizes to lower calorie counts. They will also increase use of synthetic fillers, substitutes, and sweeteners. It is bad enough that current products often have bear little resemblance to actual foods. Flavored "diet" yogurts are a prime example: 80 calories of milky chemical soup.

Posted by: ZF-MD | May 22, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

ZF/DFL:

I couldn't agree more. There is one sandwich shop I solicit from time to time. Every meal on the menu is 1 serving (i.e. each sandwich is 1 serving) except for 1: one sandwich is actually 3.5 servings. I wrote to the company explaining how I thought this was deceptive, but 6 months later and still no response. I am going to guess that not every consumer who is diligent enough to actually look at nutritional information before they eat a meal will catch this.

Posted by: B-Vandy | May 22, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

B-Vandy:

You're diligent enough to be aware of the nutritional value of a meal. No doubt your family and many of your friends are as well. And that's because it's important to you.

But not everyone places the same importance on nutrition and perhaps physical fitness as you do. If the information is there for people to read, and people don't read it, is there a problem? Or if they do read it but eat all 3.5 servings anyway, is there a problem?

If there's a problem, what would you do about it?

In my view, there is no problem. We ought to be able to eat whatever we want to, without government or busybodies (unfortunately, these days, there's a disturbing amount of overlap) interfering with private, individual decisions.

Posted by: asdf2 | May 22, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

B-Vandy:

You're diligent enough to be aware of the nutritional value of a meal. No doubt your family and many of your friends are as well. And that's because it's important to you.

But not everyone places the same importance on nutrition and perhaps physical fitness as you do. If the information is there for people to read, and people don't read it, is there a problem? Or if they do read it but eat all 3.5 servings anyway, is there a problem?

If there's a problem, what would you do about it?

In my view, there is no problem. We ought to be able to eat whatever we want to, without government or busybodies (unfortunately, these days, there's a disturbing amount of overlap) interfering with private, individual decisions.

Posted by: asdf2 | May 22, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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