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Next Monday, what a press release calls “an unprecedented coalition of retailers, non-governmental organizations and food and beverage manufacturers” will gather in Washington, DC, to “announce the launch of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a national, multi-year effort to try to help reduce obesity – especially childhood obesity – by 2015. The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation will promote ways to help people achieve a healthy weight through energy balance. The initiative focuses on three critical areas – the marketplace, the workplace and schools.”

According to the announcement, the foundation members have committed a total of $20 million to the effort.

The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation is made up of a combination of 40 companies – including Kellogg’s and PepsiCo - and partner organizations that include the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition Foundation and the American Dietetic Association Foundation.

At the same time, the Financial Times reports that Coca-Cola is “ramping up” its efforts “to stress the importance of a healthy lifestyle in combating obesity, in response to a growing push by health advocates for a federal tax on sugared drinks and sodas. A Coke official said the company is about to expand what she called its existing ‘multi faceted effort’ on nutrition education, including the use of paid advertising to underline the need to balance calories consumed with appropriate exercise.” This coincides with a high-profile media campaign by the American Beverage Association to fight beverage tax proposals.
KC's View:
It must be pointed out that this foundation is being announced at the same time as companies like Kellogg’s are under fire for using the “Smart Choices” seal on products like Froot Loops and suggesting that they should be part of an intelligent diet.

A cynic would suggest that the real industry commitment is to protecting its own flank, and that these efforts are more about marketing and public relations than they are about nutritional guidance and healthy living. Such charges will be made – there is no doubt about that – and so companies and trade associations need to be very, very careful about their efforts in these areas and avoid situations in which they can be accused of hypocrisy.