Junk food may be considered a national threat, but it’s not the root of the problem, says managing editor Marina Mayer. That’s why first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign may just hit the spot.




“Our national security level is…yellow,” says the nice lady over the loudspeaker.

When walking through the airport, it’s not uncommon to hear this message replay over and over.

Soon enough though, we will hear these similar “warnings” while shopping for groceries.

I can envision it now. A consumer snags a box of Twinkies and that pre-programmed voice shouts
“Orange alert, orange alert!”

Okay, so maybe the orange alert is a little overboard.

Or is it?

Let’s face it, our nation has supersized itself.

According to the American Obesity Association’s Web site, there are about 127 million adults in the United States who are overweight, 60 million are obese and 9 million are severely obese.

While these numbers are alarming, what’s even more mind-numbing is that 30.3% of children ages six to 11 are overweight and 15.3% are obese, the organization’s Web site says.

No wonder junk foods are considered a national threat.

That’s why several organizations, state legislations, bakers, snack producers and even the feds have joined forces to hijack our nation’s fat, sodium and calorie consumption in hopes of getting it under control.

For instance, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) is getting its hands dirty by urging Americans to roll back their sodium intake.

“The goal is to slowly, over time, reduce the sodium content of the food supply in a way that goes unnoticed by most consumers as individuals’ taste sensors adjust to the lower levels of sodium,” IOM said in its latest consensus report.

Likewise, state senators are imposing so-called “sin” taxes on various sodas, snacks and sweet goods in hopes that the rise in price forces Americans to be more selective about their food choices.

Meanwhile, The Corn Refiners Association in Washington, D.C., recently launched a nationwide multimedia campaign explaining that although high-fructose corn syrup has gotten a bad rap, it is in essence, just a sugar.

While all of these efforts are inspiring, they don’t tackle the root of the problem, which is, how did America supersize itself and who is to blame?

Unlike the “fat” taxes, anti-sodium groups and those against high-fructose corn syrup, first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign may just hit the spot. That’s because it’s designed for Americans to alter their lifestyles and welcome healthier foods into their meal plans instead of eliminating all bad-for-you ingredients entirely.

“It’s not that we can’t have the Twinkie, you know? And our kids would be pretty upset, and I am not supporting that,” Obama said in an interview with Newsweek magazine. “I’m all in favor of good snacks. We grew up with snacks and chips. But we have to exercise more. Parents have to understand what’s in the Twinkie. So we don’t need a warning, we need information that’s easy to understand… We don’t need the warning labels. We just need common sense and good information.”

Instead of ridding our pantries of Little Debbie snack cakes or (Gasp!) white bread, let’s all join forces in teaching one another how to read labels, what each of the ingredients resembles and how eating junk food isn’t the end of the world as long as it’s done so in moderation.

In talking with several bakers and snack producers for Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery magazine’s June State of the Industry issue, many companies already are producing healthier foods with cleaner labels, whether they are for schools, grocery stores or in-store bakeries.

For instance, PARTNERS crackers, Kent, Wash., launched Get Movin’ Crackers, which are single-serve snacks that only contain 70 to 90 calories per serving. And as the brand says, a little activity can go a long way.

No need to call in homeland security just yet. Let’s hope the new efforts to de-supersize the nation are working.

Now if only the nice lady in the airport can help us find our gates.

Editor’s Note: Purchase SF&WB’s June State of the Industry report and learn more about what bakers and snack producers are doing to provide healthier snack and bakery options.