Toys Making Kids Fat? Get Serious, Listen To Mrs. Obama

The Center for Science in the Public Interests lawsuit against McDonalds over its use of toys in promoting kids meals should remind us of the need for sanity in our nations discussion on childhood obesity. The lawsuit, which seeks to stop McDonalds from using toys to promote its Happy Meals, is the work of a radical fringe that uses legal mechanisms and aggressive public relations to draw attention to itself. It should make every segment of the food industry recognize the need for a sane discussion.Fortunately, the leadership of First Lady Michelle Obama has been exemplary on the issue of childhood obesity. Her sane leadership should not be taken for granted.This year, the White Houses Childhood Obesity Task Force has sought input from the public and private sectors on how to address obesity, and its recommendations for public and private action are a sensible action plan. To download the full Childhood Obesity Task Force report, go to: http://www.letsmove.gov/tfco_fullreport_may2010.pdf.The food industry has an obligation to do its part to fight obesity. Every company can and should do something to assist in this effort. Major foodservice industry organizations, including the National Automatic Merchandising Association, have endorsed Mrs. Obamas Lets Move campaign. But the support must be more than symbolic. Every company can and should do something to assist in this effort.Recent studies have shown that a multi-faceted approach to wellness works better than any one shot solution, such as banning soda.Yesterday, we reported that David Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, Conn., told a conference that the best approach is one that involves several small steps to improve nutrition and encourage exercise.Refreshment service operators have a unique opportunity to personally interact with customers in providing health and nutrition guidance. This can include supporting wellness programs in addition to offering better for you products and nutrition information.The extremists like the Center for Science in the Public Interest arent going to go away. But they are looking more and more out of touch with the serious health and wellness dialogue taking place.By now, foodservice operators should realize the need to be active both in the lobbying arena and in the public spotlight. Trade groups like the National Automatic Merchandising Association have done a good job in lobbying and public relations, and operators must continue to not only support these efforts, but take some action on their own.

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