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Food Companies Cut 6.4 Trillion Calories From Supermarket Shelves: Report

Honoring a pledge, 16 major companies went beyond their goals

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 9, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Major food companies are keeping their word by removing 6.4 trillion calories from the U.S. marketplace in an effort to promote healthy weight, a new report says.

The report, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), a respected nonprofit group, evaluated the pledge made by 16 major food companies to remove 1 trillion calories from the marketplace by 2012 and 1.5 trillion calories by 2015. So far, the companies have topped their 2015 pledge by more than 400 percent.

"This is good for the American people by helping to reduce the obesity epidemic," said Dr. James Marks, senior vice president and director of the health group at RWJF.

The companies were able to reduce calories by reformulating products, developing new products and repackaging products to make the portions smaller, he said.

Some of these products are Hershey's Miniatures, Coca-Cola Zero, Pepsi Next, Special K Cracker Chips, Keebler Mini Fudge Stripes and Ball Park Lean Beef Franks.

Marks said he thinks public desire for healthier products also played a role by making it attractive for these companies to produce lower-calorie products.

These changes were also good business, Marks said. The food industry saw an opportunity to attach itself to a growing trend toward healthier foods, he said. Reducing calories was a way to capitalize on that trend and gain market share and increase profits -- "the dynamics of the marketplace," he said.

"The net effect was this reduction," Marks said. "They committed to a reduction and were willing to be held publicly accountable."

To remove calories from the marketplace, the companies formed the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation in 2009.

In 2007, the 16 companies sold 60.4 trillion calories, which provided the baseline for their pledge. In 2012, they sold 54 trillion calories. This 6.4 trillion calorie reduction means that, on average, every person in the United States is consuming 78 fewer calories each day, according to the RWJF report.

Some of the companies that made the pledge are Bumble Bee Foods, Campbell Soup Company and the Coca-Cola Company.

"We are excited about this report because we have exceeded our goals," said Lisa Gable, president of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. "This really speaks to the competitive nature of this market," she added.

For his part, Marks said he hopes this effort will reach beyond these 16 companies and that others will get on board with the program and start reducing calories in their products.

Nutrition experts said it's not yet clear what long-term effect the calorie cuts will have on health.

"This is a step in the right direction toward changing our food environment. Only time will tell just how much of an impact it might have on American waistlines," said Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

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