There is great news to report in the fight against obesity. It seems that a voluntary effort by the nation’s major food companies to lower the number of calories they sell per year is a booming success.
In May 2010, 16 businesses – including Kraft, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestle, Post and Campbell Soup – pledged to remove one trillion calories from the marketplace by 2012, and 1.5 trillion by 2015, as part of the voluntary, private sector effort by the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation to help American consumers make healthier choices. The researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill tasked with assessing these efforts found that “thus far, the companies have exceeded their 2015 pledge by more than 400 percent.” According to the research findings, “the participating companies sold 60.4 trillion calories in 2007, the year defined as the baseline measurement for the pledge. In 2012, they sold 54 trillion calories. This 6.4 trillion calorie decline translates into a reduction of 78 calories per person in the United States per day.”
Now a reduction of 78 calories per person per day may not sound like a lot, but the impact could be enormous. Just listen to Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “It’s great to see companies selling fewer calories and reformulating their products to reduce fat and sugar,” Wootan explains. And she also admits that “the whole obesity epidemic can be explained by an extra 100 to 150 calories a day.”
It is truly remarkable to hear this from a representative of the organization that has never met a private business they couldn’t blame for harming, maiming and killing Americans and who just love to sue said companies into submission. Of course, Wootan is not without her suspicions about the industry’s efforts. “It’s hard to know how much is due to the proactive efforts of the industry rather than changes in Americans’ eating habits,” Wootan says. But even this is an endorsement of voluntary change rather than the heavy hand of government that we’ve seen all too often in recent years.
Since First Lady Michelle Obama partnered with the private sector to fight obesity – her signature issue – it will be great to hear her praise the private sector’s success when she comes back from her birthday vacation.