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Michelle Obama touts trillion calorie cut

In a direct response to Michelle Obama’s declared war on childhood obesity, an alliance of major food manufacturers on Monday pledged to introduce new, more healthful options, cut portion sizes and trim calories in existing products.

world Updated: May 19, 2010 00:52 IST

In a direct response to Michelle Obama’s declared war on childhood obesity, an alliance of major food manufacturers on Monday pledged to introduce new, more healthful options, cut portion sizes and trim calories in existing products.

The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a coalition including Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft Foods and PepsiCo, will slash 1 trillion calories by the end of 2012 and 1.5 trillion calories by the end of 2015. The 16 members make 20-25 per cent of the food consumed in the United States.

'This is precisely the kind of real private-sector commitment that we need. And I hope that more will follow the example that they’ve set,' Obama said at a news conference at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The announcement is one of the first substantial results of the first lady’s 'Let’s Move!' campaign, which aims to end childhood obesity within a generation.

The industry’s pledge comes two months after Obama urged food corporations 'to move farther, faster' and less than a week after the White House announced the findings of its Childhood Obesity Task Force. The industry has been under pressure from the first lady and from state and local governments considering junk-food taxes and other anti-obesity measures.

Missing from the announcement were any specifics on the new products or cuts that will be made to existing items. But White House officials stressed that the companies will be held accountable.

Each year, their progress will be assessed by the Partnership for a Healthier America. A first report is tentatively slated for 2013. Eliminating 1.5 trillion calories sounds like a lot. But can it help turn the tide on obesity?

A spokesman for the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation was unable to put the number in context.

Instead, he said the number is designed to eliminate the 'energy gap' — the number of calories consumed that are not expended through physical activity. Recent research estimates that gap is approximately 100 calories per day per person, and less for teenagers and children.

Some public-health advocates questioned the industry’s motives, saying the growing awareness about obesity has increased demand for more healthful products.

'My guess is that they were going to do this anyway,' said Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

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