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Organic Consumers Association

How Walmart Execs Fleeced the White House on 'Healthy Food'

When Michelle Obama first announced her Let's Move program to end childhood obesity "within a generation" last year, I tried to remain open-minded. Like many others, I was happy to have the first lady bring attention to this important problem. And there's no doubt that her leadership has helped, for example, to get Congress to make improvements to school meals. But I remained concerned that the White House was reluctant to take on the food industry in any meaningful way. It seems that things are worse than I thought.

Last week, Walmart executives announced what Michelle Obama hailed as a new "nutrition charter," a number of promises to sell healthier food. While the media reported the news with much fanfare -- serving up the positive spin that Walmart hoped the first lady would help provide -- there was little critique to be found.

I am less interested in the specifics of the proposal than I am in the fact that the White House endorsed it. This secretly brokered deal raises numerous troubling questions about the respective roles of industry and government as it relates to setting food and nutrition policy for the nation. For starters:

1) What was the first lady's staff doing in secret talks with Walmart for over a year? How did such an approach even get started? Here's an alternative scenario: Congress holds hearings (you know, in public) on how the entire food industry should be changing its ways with enforceable, meaningful laws that apply to everyone, not just Walmart.


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