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New study results: Food companies cut trillions of calories after 2010 pledge

Food companies cut 6.4 trillion calories in packaged foods since 2010
Food companies cut 6.4 trillion calories in packaged foods since 2010
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

On January 9, 2014, Yahoo News reported on the results of a new study which shows a marked reduction in packaged food products by major food companies. In 2010, 16 companies, including Campbell Soup company, General Mills Inc., ConAgra Foods Inc., Kellogg Co., Hershey Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Coca Cola Co. pledged to cut 1 trillion calories by 2012, and 1.5 trillion calories by 2015.They have succeeded in doing so.

According to Yahoo News, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the study sponsor, said that 'between 2007 and 2012, the companies reduced their products' calories by the equivalent of around 78 calories per person per day. The total is more than four times the amount those companies had pledged to cut by next year.'

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a non-partisan, philanthropic and research organization whose mission it is to improve the health of the nation. The Foundation utilized the services of researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to count the calories of just about every packaged food product found on grocery shelves. Researchers used the scanner data from hundreds of thousands of foods, nutrition facts panels and commercial databases to ascertain the amount of calories that companies were selling..

Director of the Health Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Dr. James Marks, said that, "the companies must sustain that reduction, as they have pledged to do, and other food companies should follow their lead." Dr. Marks indicated that the group is pleased with the results thus far. Although researchers have not released the complete study results, they stated yesterday that 'the companies have exceeded their own goals by a wide margin.' One aspect that has not been evaluated are the brands sold under the names of retailers. It is unclear at this time whether these off-brands have changed their calorie content.

Foods packaged in smaller sizes, reduced calorie packs, foods that are baked instead of fried and foods sold in smaller versions than the original are all easily seen and are readily available on any grocery shelf. According to Yahoo News, Dr. Marks said that he 'believes that companies' efforts to package smaller servings - 100 calorie packs of popular snacks, for example, and smaller cans of sugary drinks may have contributed to the reduction in calories. He says the main contributors most likely were the public's increasing willingness to buy healthier foods and companies responding to those consumers.'

All of the companies involved are a part of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, an industry coalition of food businesses that have come together to help reduce obesity. 'The foundation pledged to reduce the calories as part of an agreement with a group of nonprofit organizations and made the 2010 announcement as part of First lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign to combat childhood obesity.

According to Yahoo News, Lisa Gable of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation said that the companies achieved the goal by coming together and also competing to make new lower-calorie foods. Market studies have shown that many of the healthier foods have outperformed other products' The studies' findings, "exceeded our expectations," Gable said. "This is a very significant shift in the marketplace."

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