Bakers, others support obesity initiative
by Josh Sosland
WASHINGTON — A multi-pronged approach toward reducing obesity rates makes sense and will be supported by the American Bakers Association, Robb MacKie, A.B.A. president and chief executive officer, said May 12.
The A.B.A. and other processed foods groups reacted positively to the Interagency Task Force on Childhood Obesity’s action plan announced May 12 by First Lady Michelle Obama.
“We continue to commend First Lady Michelle Obama for her positive approach to tackling what is a complex and daunting social problem,” Mr. MacKie said. “America’s bakers have long focused on providing healthy, wholesome grain-based products to American families. A.B.A. looks forward to working closely with the First Lady and others in joint efforts to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic.”
Mr. MacKie singled out public education as an area of particularly needed emphasis, with programs aimed both at children and parents. He also emphasized the need for a science-based approach and benchmarks that are realistic and attainable.
He noted the important position held by grains in the Food Guide Pyramid, with a recommendation that half of daily grain servings come from whole grains.
Lee Sanders, senior vice-president of government relations and public affairs at the A.B.A., noted the importance of enriched grains as a source of B vitamins.
“Enriched grains play a key role in helping children lead more active and healthy lives,” she said.
Pamela G. Bailey, president and c.e.o. of the Grocery Manufacturers of America, expressed a commitment to a “genuine partnership with first Lady Michelle Obama in her efforts to reverse the trend of childhood obesity within a generation…We embrace our responsibility.”
Ms. Bailey noted that the industry already has enhanced the nutritional profile of 10,000 products, reducing sugar, fats calories and sodium.
“We promise to continually improve,” she said. “In the near future, many of our member companies, through their work with the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, will be announcing additional and measurable goals to reduce childhood obesity by providing even more healthy choices.”
Like the A.B.A., the G.M.A. said nutrition education is an “essential key to healthy living.”
“Government has an important role to play, and G.M.A. supports legislative efforts to strengthen the Child Nutrition Act, including new strong, science-based nutritional standards for foods sold within schools,” Ms. Bailey said.
The International Dairy Foods Association applauded Mrs. Obama and the Obama administration for its “integrated approach” in the report.
“We are pleased to see the report acknowledge the tremendous nutrient richness of dairy products and reaffirm the important role that low-fat and fat-free milk and dairy products play in providing the nine essential nutrients kids need,” said Connie Tipton, president and chief executive officer of the I.D.F.A. ”Over the past five years, our industry has made significant strides in reducing calories and fat in milk. In fact, most schools now serve only low-fat and fat-free milks. Yet, 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.”