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Michelle Obama drafts food marketers in childhood obesity battle

Michelle Obama welcomes food marketers to a summit today in hopes of outing 'the elephant in the room' of childhood obesity discussion.

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Michelle Obama wants food makers and media companies to spend less time advertising sweet or salty foods to kids and more time promoting healthier options.

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File

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Michelle Obama wants food makers and entertainment companies to spend less time advertising sweet and salty foods to kids and more time promoting healthier options.

Concerned about the nation's childhood obesity issues, the first lady today is convening the first White House summit on food marketing to children to get involved parties talking about how to help consumers make healthier food choices. That includes enlisting the persuasive power of the multimillion-dollar food marketing industry.

As she helped kick off a nationwide campaign last week to encourage people to drink more plain water, Mrs. Obama said she would keep reaching out to new people and organizations and keep making the case for healthier choices like water and fruits and vegetables.

The White House says it has invited representatives from the food and media industries, advocates, parents, representatives of government agencies, and researchers, though it did not release a list of names and organizations. Mrs. Obama will open the meeting with public remarks. The rest of the meeting will be closed to the media.

Consumer advocates say studies show that food marketing is a leading cause of obesity because it influences what children want to eat.

A 2006 report on the issue by the influential Institute of Medicine concluded that food and beverage marketing to children "represents, at best, a missed opportunity, and, at worst, a direct threat to the health of the next generation."

Improvements have come in the years since, especially after Mrs. Obama began drawing attention to childhood obesity with a campaign of her own in 2010.

She stood with the Walt Disney Co. last year when it became the first major media company to ban ads for junk food from its media channels, websites and theme parks. She also has praised the Birds Eye frozen food company for encouraging children to eat vegetables, including through promotions featuring characters from the Nickelodeon comedy "iCarly."

But the first lady and consumer advocates say more improvements are needed.

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