Paradox: Look Who’s Supporting the Anti-Obesity Movement

The U.K. Department of Health announced on Saturday that it had gained commitments from 17 food manufacturing companies to reduce calories in their products as part of a push to reduce the prevalence of obesity in the country. Among those pledging their support were Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE:KO), Tesco Plc (NASDAQ:TSCO), and the Asda super market chain, which is owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT). According to the Department of Health more than 60 percent of British adults and a third of 10 to 11 year-old children are overweight or obese.

Coca-Cola Great Britain announced on its website that it would invest 15 million pounds ($24 million) by 2014 to reformulate some of its soft drinks. The company aims to reduce its products’ calories per liter by 30 percent. Additionally, Coca-Cola pledged to increase the advertising budget of its low calorie offerings, Diet Coke and Coke Zero, by 25 percent in Great Britain.

“This is a very encouraging start,” Dr. Susan Jebb, Cambridge, England-based head of diet and population health at the government-funded Centre for Diet and Activity Research, said in a statement. “I am impatient to make progress. I know some other companies are already developing their plans, but we need everyone, all companies — from all sectors and all sizes – – to step up and act for the good of the nation’s health.”

Other companies pledging their support of the British initiative include Nestle SA, Premier Foods Plc (NYSE:PFD), Marks & Spencer Group Plc (NYSE:MKS), WM Morrisons PLC, J Sainsbury Plc, Waitrose Ltd., Kerry Foods Ltd., Kraft Foods Inc. (NYSE:KFT), Mars Inc. (NYSE:MMC), PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE:PEP), Unilever NV, Whitbread Plc, Subway Restaurants, and Compass Group Plc, according to the Department of Health.

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