The Trillion Calorie Challenge

June 21st, 2010 | Sources: Wall Street Journal

Just one week after first-dietician-in chief Michelle Obama asked the food industry to reduce the marketing of unhealthy foods to kids as part of her campaign against childhood obesity, 16 food makers agreed to cut 1.5 trillion calories from their products by 2015.

cokeThe companies, which include Hershey, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola and Pepsico, announced plans to reach the goal by reducing portion sizes, changing recipes for certain products, and offering more low-cal alternatives to their offerings.

The move represents the food industry’s response to Ms. Obama’s call for a reduction in childhood obesity rates to 5% by 2030. Currently, about a third of US children are overweight or obese.

“This is precisely the kind of real private-sector commitment that we need,” Mrs. Obama told the Wall Street Journal.

Notably absent from the list of participating organizations were restaurant companies. Even so, participating companies account for nearly a quarter of the entire US food supply by volume, according to White House statistics.

spriteTo determine whether they meet their target, participating companies will determine the amount of calories they remove from each product and multiply that by the number of units sold. They will also try to account for sales trends. When new products or smaller portions of existing products are sold, the companies will calculate the percent of market share cannibalized by the new (or smaller sized) product, and multiply that by the number of units sold.

Healthy-food advocates were lukewarm to the initiative, noting that people could simply eat more servings of the food items.

“This is where the market is taking these companies anyway. I don’t know that this represents much of a concession,” said Yale’s Kelly Brownell, who studies obesity.


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