industry associations tend to oppose legally imposed limitations on consumer choice or, in many settings, restrictions on food and beverage offerings. Industry representatives who spoke at the workshop emphasized that understanding the perspective of industry will be essential in formulating workable solutions to the obesity epidemic.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents more than 300 food, beverage, and consumer product manufacturers and retailers, strongly supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s goal of eliminating childhood obesity within a generation, said Scott Faber, the GMA’s vice president for federal affairs. “As the First Lady has said,” he noted, “this is not a disease where we are still waiting for a cure to be discovered. We know the cure for this. We have everything we need right now to help our kids lead healthy lives.”
Everyone, including industry, has a role to play in helping Americans build healthy diets and lead active lifestyles, Faber said. In recent years, the food industry has changed the recipes and sizes of more than 20,000 products to reduce sugars, fats, calories, and sodium. In particular, food manufacturers have reduced or eliminated saturated fat in more than 6,600 products, reduced or eliminated trans fat in more than 10,000 products, reduced calories in more than 3,500 products, and reduced sodium in more than 3,100 products. Food manufacturers are continuing to reformulate their products to make further reductions in sugars, fats, calories, and sodium—“to go faster and farther, in the First Lady’s words,” as Faber put it. Food companies recently pledged through the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation to reduce calories in the marketplace by 1.5 trillion by the end of 2015, with an interim goal of a 1 trillion calorie reduction by 2012. The companies are reporting annually to the Partnership for a Healthier America on the progress they are making toward this commitment, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is supporting an independent evaluation of this effort.
The food industry also must help consumers make healthy choices by providing more information about its products, Faber said. The GMA is working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and others to develop a science-based front-of-package nutrition labeling system that will make it easier for consumers to make informed decisions at the point of purchase (see also Chapter 3). This system could be broadly adopted by many if not all food companies. The goal announced by the FDA for the front-of-package labeling system is to increase the proportion of consumers who readily notice, understand, and use nutrition information to make more nutritious choices for themselves and their families. In addition, the