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Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance
to the private sector. But in this case there is ample precedent. A variety of food-industry stakeholders have recently made positive changes by expanding healthier meal options for young consumers (Hurley and Liebman, 2004; Richwine, 2004), offering improved food products with reduced sugar content for children (PR Newswire, 2004), and reducing portion sizes at full-service and fast food restaurants (Hurley and Liebman, 2004). These changes can and should occur on a much larger scale. For that to happen, coordinated efforts among industry, government, and other sectors are needed to stimulate, support, and sustain consumer demand for healthful foods and beverages, appropriately portioned meals, and accurate and consistent nutritional information made readily available to the public.
Similarly, the leisure, entertainment, and recreation industries are faced with the challenge of maintaining profitability while portraying active living1 as a desirable social norm for adults and children. These industries, which influence how leisure time is used, can create a wide range of new products and opportunities to increase energy expenditure through the incorporation of physical activity messages into sedentary pursuits (e.g., television commercials, video games and Internet websites that remind or prompt consumers to increase physical activity for a specified amount of time to balance screen time). This chapter presents a series of recommendations appropriate to the commercial environment in general and to various industries in particular.
Food and Beverage Industry
The food and beverage industries’ decisions are guided by key factors—including taste, palatability, cost, convenience, value, variety, availability, ethnic preferences, and safety—that drive consumer demand (FMI, 2003a,b; Wansink, 2004). The industry’s decisions are also constrained by other conditions. For example, product and meal size are significant drivers of consumers’ perceived value of the foods and beverages they purchase, whether for consumption at home or elsewhere (FMI, 2003a,b; Stewart et al., 2004; Wansink, 2004).
Similarly, modern retail food stores offer tens of thousands of food and beverage items from which to choose. While more than 14,000 new food and beverage products enter the U.S. marketplace annually, less than 6
Active living is a way of life that integrates two types of physical activity—recreational or leisure activity (e.g., jogging, skateboarding, or playing basketball), and utilitarian or occupational activity (e.g., walking or bicycling to school or running errands)—into one’s daily routine.