RODALE NEWS, WASHINGTON, DC—Michelle Obama scolded the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) at their meeting in Washington on Tuesday for not doing enough to reduce childhood obesity—and, in fact, for contributing to it. But if the assembled representatives of PepsiCo, Coca Cola, Kraft, Krispy Kreme, McDonald's, ConAgra, and other food and beverage manufacturers and fast-food chains were offended by the criticism, they never let on. Instead they laughed in all the right places, and gave her a standing ovation.
THE DETAILS: A press release for the lobbying group said GMA members are “enthusiastic supporters of Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative and its goal of solving childhood obesity.”
Do they have a choice?
It's not the first time that the food industry has been censured for its contribution to the childhood-obesity epidemic. Part of what makes the food makers willing to turn the other cheek is that this time they were upbraided by the first lady—not some Nutritional Nazi, as they've described most people who have criticized them in the past. And another part of it is that they don’t want to buck the trend toward more healthful food. And certainly part of their acceptance is due to Mrs. Obama's skill at mixing praise with criticism and humor. She complimented them on what they have done right, she pleaded with them as parents, she appealed to their better natures.
In conversations with several officials of the association after her speech, they offered supportive statements: “We’ve never had this kind of leadership at the White House.” “She didn’t talk about blame.” “She didn’t say there are good foods and bad foods.” In fact, GMA insists that its members have already done a lot of what Mrs. Obama is suggesting: reducing the fat, calories, sugar or salt in 10,000 products, and following voluntary guidelines about what is advertised on children's programming. So, problem solved, right?