By MARY CLARE JALONICK
First lady Michelle Obama speaks at the Partnership for a Healthier America’s second Building a Healthier Future Summit on childhood obesity, Friday, March 8, 2013, at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Michelle Obama praised the food industry on Friday for its efforts to market healthier foods but said more needs to be done.
At a speech before a childhood obesity summit, the first lady encouraged the industry to put better labels on food, limit marketing of unhealthy foods, and do more to promote healthy foods.
She invoked her pre-White House years as a working mom who would run through the grocery store trying to make healthy decisions for her children.
“I didn’t exactly have time to peruse the aisles, thoughtfully reading labels, and I know my experiences are not unique,” she said.
She praised companies like Disney, Mars, Hershey and PepsiCo. that she said have made efforts to reduce marketing of unhealthy foods to children. But she said, “We have a lot of work to do.”
Mrs. Obama encouraged companies not just to limit junk food marketing but to promote healthier foods.
The first lady did not mention a government effort to establish voluntary guidelines for marketing foods to kids. That effort was directed by Congress in 2009 and the Federal Trade Commission issued a draft of the guidelines in 2011, urging companies only to market foods to children if they are low in fats, sugars and sodium and contain specified healthy ingredients. The effort fizzled after food and advertising companies balked and conservatives on Capitol Hill criticized the effort.
On Friday, Mrs. Obama appealed directly to the food industry to limit marketing and promote healthy foods. She cited studies that showed kids would reach for vegetables if they were marketed with popular characters such as Elmo.
“When businesses step up it’s important to applaud their efforts, but also to encourage them to do even more,” she said.
Mrs. Obama also encouraged parents not just to feed their children well but to stay healthy themselves.
Reducing childhood obesity is “a moral obligation to our children” and “a patriotic obligation to our country,” she said.
Mrs. Obama was joined by Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning at the Partnership for Healthier America’s summit. The private group was formed in conjunction with the first lady’s Let’s Move campaign to combat childhood obesity and works to secure commitments from industry and others for healthier eating and fitness.
“What inspires me now is that so many Americans are joining together and looking at the crisis of obesity in America,” Booker said.