Michelle Obama tells Grocery Manufacturers Association to ‘Step it Up’

Mar 16, 2010 3:26pm

ABC News’ Yunji de Nies reports:

The First Lady faced what may have been her toughest audience yet in her fight against childhood obesity.  Speaking at a meeting of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), she decried the added calories that snacking has added to kids’ diets.  Snacks manufactured by companies like Kraft Foods Inc., and General Mills, represented in the audience.

“Today, snacking between meals has become more the norm rather than the exception.  And while kids 30 years ago ate just one snack a day, we’re now trending toward three –- so our kids are taking in an additional 200 calories a day just from snacks alone,” Mrs. Obama said.

GMA members welcomed Michelle Obama with a standing ovation.  In his introduction, Rick Wolford, GMA chairman and CEO of Del Monte Foods Co., called the industry “ an enthusiastic supporter” of her Let’s Move! Initiative.

“We are now in a watershed moment in the fight against obesity,” Wolford said, “We share the same goal.”

Mrs. Obama called on the GMA to help in that goal, telling them while parents, teachers and government officials bear much of the responsibility for the one in three children now obese or overweight, they too have a duty to “step it up.”

“If there is anyone here who can sell food to our kids, it’s you.  You know what gets their attention.  You know what makes that lasting impression.  You know what gets them to drive their parents crazy in the grocery store.  And I’m here today to ask you to use that knowledge and that power to our kids’ advantage.  I’m asking you to actively promote healthy foods and healthy habits to our kids,” she said.

Mrs. Obama said she wants a fundamental shift on the products these companies are making and the information they offer with it.

“We need you not just to tweak around the edges, but to entirely rethink the products that you’re offering, the information that you provide about these products, and how you market those products to our children,” she said.

The first lady also pushed the industry to provide more consistent and clear food labeling and reminded them that replacing one unhealthy ingredient with another does not constitute improvement.

“While decreasing fat is certainly a good thing, replacing it with sugar and salt isn’t.  And it doesn’t mean compensating for high amounts of problematic ingredients with small amounts of beneficial ones — for example, adding a little bit of Vitamin C to a product with lots of sugar, or a gram of fiber to a product with tons of fat doesn’t suddenly make those products good for our kids,” she said, “This isn’t about finding creative ways to market products as healthy.  As you know, it’s about producing products that actually are healthy — products that can help shape the health habits of an entire generation.”

FLOTUS Fashion Watch: Mrs. Obama wore a sleeveless silk pink narrow striped blouse with large pink bow, matched with a dark pink skirt and diamond earrings.

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