Michelle Obama Lays Into Food Makers

bet-michelle-obama-lets-move-gmaNow this! This is what I was talking about. The missing piece in the First Lady’s — and, really, anyone’s — attempts to do something about children’s health and obesity in the U.S.

Michelle Obama, speaking at a meeting of the Grocery Manufacturers Association yesterday, that food makers need a complete and total overhaul of their business.

Here’s what she said:

“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.”

… “We can build shiny new supermarkets on every block, but we need those supermarkets to actually provide healthy options at prices people can afford,” she said. “And we can insist that our schools serve better food, but we need to actually produce that food. And we can give parents all the information in the world, but they still won’t have time to untangle labels filled with 10-syllable words or do long division with these portion sizes. And that’s really where you come in.”

Yes! Yes, yes, yes.

I’ve long argued that there should be some kind of regulation of the food industry, especially when it comes to marketing directly to children. But we’re a nation that likes to put the burden — the entire burden — of raising kids on the shoulders of the parents and the children themselves.

It’s funny, we’re collectively outraged at what cigarette companies did to entice kids to start smoking. But when you argue it’s a shame Kellogg’s is putting Barbie on  a box of Pop-Tarts, more often than not Kellogg’s (and Disney) are defended and those stupid, weak mothers who refuse to say “no” to their kids take all the blame. Personal responsibility! Teach your kids to choose “fruit snacks” over fruit snacks.

And yet. Yet. Really smart people get paid a ton of money to figure out how to get your fruit snack eating kid to pick “fruit snacks” instead. Those smart people are reeeeeeally good at what they do.

Sure, these are just words right now. Obama isn’t a lawmaker and can’t make Kraft do anything. But she’s shining a spotlight on them, stating their role in this and not just focusing on soda (though, Pepsi’s announcement is another good start — as long as they’re not just replacing soda with equally high- and empty-calorie sports drinks and juices). She’s calling them out on some of their tactics, too.

Check it out:

She warned against tricks such as replacing fat with another no-no such as salt or adding a gram of fiber to a product already laden with calories.

“This isn’t about finding creative ways to market products as healthy,” she said. “As you know, it’s about producing products that actually are healthy — products that can help shape the health habits of an entire generation.”

So, yes, Mrs. Obama. Sign me up for your Let’s Move campaign. Now that we’re finally calling out all the big players — parents, schools, government AND food corporations — I’m in.

What about you?

Barbie Pop Tarts Could Undo ‘Let’s Move’


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