"Is the food industry part of the solution or the problem?" asks a NY Times headline. Here's an excerpt from the article by reporter Dan Buss.
"A new obsession of America's food, beverage and restaurant companies is thwarting childhood obesity. With more nutritious products, healthier menus and new activity programs, the companies have begun a big push aimed at the youngest generation.
Frito-Lay is offering reduced-fat Doritos in school lunch rooms. Oscar Mayer has added apple sauce and other healthy choices to its Lunchables meal-kit line. Kraft has come out with a sugarless Kool-Aid that is being marketed in magazines like Diabetic Cooking and Diabetes Forecast.
Among restaurant chains, Wendy's has slipped orange slices into children's meals, and Denny's has made French fries much harder to find on its menu than new side dishes of fruits and vegetables.
And, this fall, Coca-Cola is helping finance a new after-school fitness program."The big idea is to give kids education, motivation and access to ways to change," said Brock Leach, the chief innovations officer at PepsiCo, which owns Frito-Lay. "The food business can play a very constructive role in that, making these foods available to kids and marketing them in ways that make a healthier lifestyle more attractive."
For decades, of course, the industry has been known for serving up sugary or fat-laden products, promoted with ceaseless advertising. And despite all the new, healthier options, that will not change. "If they stop, their competitors are right there and will fill the void," said Dr. Walter Willett, chief of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Critics say these companies are taking a new direction only to escape or mitigate possible court verdicts that could blame the food industry for the fact that about 15 percent of American youth now are plumper than they should be, more than double the proportion of 25 years ago. "There are hordes of lawyers looking at the industry's marketing practices in a way that's never happened before," said Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University."
Better late than never that food companies develop and market healthier foods for kids? Or is it simply the parents' fault that they have overweight kids? What's your reaction to this trend? Leave a comment below.