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Author Hank Cardello has a piece in The Atlantic in which he recounts his participation in a Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) summit designed to find ways to help major food industry companies address the national obesity crisis. The goal was not vilification and demonization of the mainstream food industry, but rather define sustainable and profitable ways to “make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

Cardello writes that this was not a “kumbaya session. The PHA has secured corporate pledges to improve the nutrition of the foods they sell and serve, and to hold companies accountable for their promises. Among the commitments obtained to date include:

• “Walmart will build or expand up to 300 stores in areas lacking access to grocery food, and reduce sodium and added sugars by 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively, by 2015;

• “Darden (parent to Olive Garden and Red Lobster) will reduce calories and sodium by 20 percent in the next 10 years and increase healthy options on their children's menus by automatically including fruits and vegetables as a side and milk as a drink;

• “Hyatt Hotels will also make kid's menus healthier by automatically including fruits and vegetables instead of fries or chips, and by offering free refills on low-fat milk.”

Cardello concludes: “While this effort is clearly a step in the right direction, several questions remain: Can self-interest groups molt out of their skin and adopt more constructive stances to help solve obesity? Will more companies join with pledges to improve the foods that they sell? Are the promises substantial enough to reverse the nation's childhood obesity epidemic?”
KC's View:
While I am totally sympathetic to obesity activists, sometimes they forget that the corporation they are trying to influence have shareholders who are interested in profits, not calorie counts or brownie points. They can’t just toss out traditional products that people continue to buy - and that parents feed their kids - just because they want to affect the obesity trend.

This is all a process. I’m optimistic enough to think that even baby steps in the right direction are an indication of progress.

(It is not like these products are being built to kill people, like tobacco products essentially are. Which is why I apply a completely different standard to that industry.)