Saturday, May 29, 2010


The propensity of the food processing industry to flood the market with high caloric density foods is often cited as the main reason for all the ills experienced by populations all over the world, especially in rich countries with high per capita income. Though collectively the industry knows this bitter truth, at individual level the market is driven by the insatiable consumer demand for food products that give highest sensory pleasure. Recent reports that the international Mexican food chain Taco Bell, with thousands of outlets across the world has launched a $ 2 "meal" loaded with calories and fat at unacceptable levels, is a typical example of playing to consumer demand for low cost foods with "satisfying" organoleptic quality. Probably this fast food chain could have given some attention in balancing the new low cost "meal" in terms of various nutrients and calories. It is here that the food industry is perceived to be irresponsible vis-à-vis their social commitment and this is precisely the area the American authorities are trying to instill some voluntary restraints on them.

"Sixteen of the top U.S. food and beverage manufacturers announced yesterday they will work toward removing 1.5 trillion calories from the American diet annually by 2015, with a total of 1 trillion to be cut by 2012. The pledge to cut major calories from food products is an agreement between the Partnership for a Healthier America, an independent, nonpartisan organization, and The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a coalition of 80 of the nation's largest retailers, non-profits and food and beverage companies. First Lady Michelle Obama, who is leading a national effort to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation, praised the agreement at a White House press event yesterday, during which the announcement was made".

The fact that this feat was possible because of the proactive interest of the "First Lady", without any official authority, speaks well for the changing attitudes amongst some of the leading industry players who partook in such an historical event. The commitment is in gross terms and how much effect it will have at the consumer level is some thing one can only guess. Also debatable is whether focusing only on calories will have any impact while the necessity for the industry to widen its product base to include more options of balanced foods has been over looked. Nonetheless it is a welcome beginning and such initiatives must come from responsible public personalities in other countries also. One can only hope that the "historical event" at the White House will have snow balling effect across the world.


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