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VIA: Washington Post

Michelle Obama on Tuesday called on corporate food giants such as Coca-Cola, General Mills and Kraft Foods to step up efforts to produce more healthful food and then market that, rather than junk food, to children.

Speaking at a meeting of the Grocery Manufacturers Association on Tuesday, Obama said she hopes to see a fundamental shift.

“We need you not just to tweak around the edges, but to entirely rethink the products that you’re offering, the information that you provide about these products and how you market those products to our children,” Obama said.

The First Lady has made the fight against childhood obesity, whose rates have tripled over the past three decades, her signature issue. Last month, she launched Let’s Move, a federal initiative designed to end the epidemic within a generation. Since then, she has wooed parents, children and policymakers, but this was her first public appeal to the food industry.

Parents, teachers and government officials are all responsible, she said, but the food industry has a special role to play.

“We can build shiny new supermarkets on every block, but we need those supermarkets to actually provide healthy options at prices people can afford,” she said. “And we can insist that our schools serve better food, but we need to actually produce that food. And we can give parents all the information in the world, but they still won’t have time to untangle labels filled with 10-syllable words or do long division with these portion sizes. And that’s really where you come in.”

Obama applauded the industry’s early efforts in reformulating its products. Last year, for example, Campbell’s lowered sodium in 90 soups by 25 percent to 50 percent. But the first lady warned that future action must also be substantial. She warned against tricks such as replacing fat with another no-no such as salt or adding a gram of fiber to a product already laden with calories.

“This isn’t about finding creative ways to market products as healthy,” she said. “As you know, it’s about producing products that actually are healthy — products that can help shape the health habits of an entire generation.”

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