For those of us on the progressive side of eating and health in America, there have been several bits of recent news for which to be thankful. To start, a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that obesity rates in young children have declined sharply. Next, First Lady Michelle Obama announced plans to eliminate junk food marketing in public schools. Finally she unveiled the Food and Drug Administration’s proposal to revise the nutrition label on packaged foods, which among other things would add a new line for “added sugars” and alter average serving sizes used to calculate calorie intake.
If the findings on declining childhood obesity rates holds true, it's proof that policy works. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Mark Bittman calls it "a tribute to the to the improved Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which encourages the consumption of fruits and vegetables; to improved nutrition guidelines; to a slight reduction in the marketing of junk to children; and probably to the encouragement of breast-feeding."
As part of the attack on junk food marketing to kids, the new rules mean that snacks sold in schools will have to meet one of four requirements, including containing at least 50 percent whole grain or a quarter-cup of fruits or vegetables.
Introducing the new labeling requirements, the First Lady said in a statement:
"Our guiding principle here is very simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it's good for your family. So this is a big deal, and it's going to make a big difference for families all across this country."
Indeed it is, but it's only a start. Bittman points out that the junk food marketing rules are filled with loopholes and the labeling requirements could have gone a lot farther. Still, those of us concerned with eating and health should be pleased with the progress.
Photo: Michelle Obama promoting her healthy eating plan. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)