Industry and government strengthen union in battle against obesity

By Laura Crowley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Three food industry organizations have intensified their
partnership with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to promote
the government's nutrition education program.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), Food Marketing Institute (FMI), and MatchPoint Marketing are already working together in a joint venture to promote Take a Peak into MyPyramid​ in supermarkets with the ultimate aim of helping consumers make healthy choices. Now they will become official corporate partners in a 'corporate challenge' - stepping up their presence to encourage others to support the program. This move is an example of yet more attempts by the industry to help curb the rising problem of obesity, and initiatives that unite the industry and government for the cause. "Take a Peak into MyPyramid, which combines the governments nutrition expertise and our industry's marketing prowess, is an important collaborations that benefits individual consumers, as well as our nation's public health,"​ said Cat Dooley, president and CEO of GMA. As the scheme receives more public awareness, organizers are hoping more manufacturers will step up labeling and fat reduction efforts, so as to be mentioned as healthy foods in the MyPyramid program. Numbers of overweight children and adults have catapulted in recent years. At least 20m children under the age of five worldwide were overweight in 2005, according to World Health Organization statistics. In the same year, approximately 1.6bn adults (aged 15 and over) were overweight and around 400m were obese. MyPyramid ​The Take a Peak initiative was launched last January as an in-store messaging program to reach consumers where they make their food choices. It was introduced by the GMA, FMI and MatchPoint Marketing in 17 states, and initially saw the production of signs booklets and other tools in more than 2,000 retail locations to educate and guide shoppers. Millions of consumers across America have now been exposed to the campaign, and it is present in more than 5,000 stores in all 50 states. The latest developments to the program include one large regional chain preparing to implement a bilingual version of the initiative. Following its continuing success, the three groups have stepped up their commitment to become corporate sponsors. No one was available to comment in time for publication on the financial agreement that has been made. FMI president and CEO Tim Hammonds said: "We welcome the opportunity to integrate the MyPyramid program into nutrition education initiatives, which will augment the many outreach efforts already underway. Educating consumers where they purchase food is an effective way to ensure that they make the most healthful choices." ​ The nutritional criteria for Take a Peak​ are based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the MyPyramid food guidance system, FDA labeling regulations, as well as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan endorsed by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines. For a food or beverage to participate in the Take a Peak​ campaign, it must "provide a meaningful contribution toward reaching the total daily amount required within the five food groups or oils based on a 2,000 calorie diet,"​ according to the GMA. Products featured must also limit saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and salt, to conform to maximum levels that are the current FDA defined disclosure levels for individual foods. David Lied, president of MatchPoint Marketing, said: "Through the strong and concise communication platform of Take a Peak into MyPyramid, consumers can readily identify supporting brands sold at their favorite store, and subsequently make healthier dietary choices for their family."

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