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Food industry responds to Task Force recommendations

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 12-May-2010

The food industry has responded to the recommendations of the President’s Task Force on Childhood Obesity with statements of support, following Michelle Obama’s presentation of its report yesterday.

The Task Force on Childhood Obesity was set up by President Obama in February, who appointed Michelle Obama to lead the program. She launched the Let’s Move campaign with the goal of ending childhood obesity within a generation, and presented the taskforce’s recommendations for achieving that aim at a press conference yesterday.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) said its members are committed to forming “a genuine partnership” with the First Lady in order to address childhood obesity, and stressed that American food and beverage companies have already reformulated more than 10,000 products to be lower in sodium, sugar and saturated fat.

GMA’s president and CEO Pamela Bailey said in a statement: “We agree that everyone has a role to play, including industry. We embrace our responsibility.”

Bailey said that the industry would continue to make healthier products. She also mentioned the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a coalition of more than 80 food and beverage manufacturers, retailers, NGOs and trade associations set up in October with the stated aim of encouraging a balance of energy intake and physical activity in order to reduce obesity – particularly childhood obesity – in the United States.

“And we’re not just making our foods healthier,” Bailey said. “More nutritional education is an essential key to healthy living. We’ve made a commitment to share more information about foods than ever before…Ending childhood obesity within a generation is a goal every American should embrace, and America’s food and beverage industry is proud to do its part.”

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) applauded the taskforce’s “integrated approach” to solving childhood obesity and said the dairy industry is committed to playing a vital role to ensure the health of the nation’s children.

IDFA’s president and CEO Connie Tipton said: “Even as we are providing lower fat and lower calorie milks, children are drinking even less milk per capita with a significant decrease in consumption as they reach their teenage years. The recommendations in this report can help to reverse this troubling trend.

"Finally, we appreciate that the Report recognizes the efforts that have been made over the past several years to provide products that appeal to 'nutrition-conscious consumers.'”

Other groups have also applauded the taskforce’s recommendations. Nutrition policy director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest Margo Wootan has called them “bold, yet achievable”.