Michelle Obama’s appearance at a Wal-Mart press conference last week was all the rage. Wal-Mart announced that it would take the lead in improving our nations obesity epidemic by reducing the amount of sugar, sodium, and trans fats in its package foods by 2015 as well as the cost of produce. In case you missed it, here is a recap.
It is clear that many Americans are ready to eat better, but what exactly does that mean? Is it more fruits and veggies? Eating less processed foods? And it begs us to ask, who needs to be in charge of setting our nations food standards? Is it better for government agencies like the FDA or USDA to regulate or does it make more sense to leave it to private industry? Here’s what Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition and public health at New York University had to say in a recent NPR interview.
As much as I want to praise Wal-Mart for it’s new healthy foods initiative, something in my gut just doesn’t feel right. Wal-Mart is not a social services program or a public health agency, it is a business, a huge corporate enterprise looking to make money wherever it can. Wal-Mart is the largest food retailer in the United States. There are 23 million Americans living without direct access to a local grocer and Wal-Mart is looking to gain those customers. We will have to wait and see if Wal-Mart lives up to the promises it announced last week, but I’ll stick with Marion Nestle and her advice that pushing for initiatives that reduce the price of fruits and vegetables is the way to go.