Rising rates of overweight and obesity pose a major challenge to the food industry. The industry has the opportunity to take positive steps to become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, which is the increasing perception. By 1999-2000 almost two-thirds of American adults were overweight or obese. The percentage of overweight children and adolescents rose by about three fold between 1980 and 2000. Overweight and obesity are now considered a serious health care crisis, with increased risk of many serious diseases. The added health care costs have been estimated at $732 annually for every American. The gain in weight is the result of eating more combined with less physical activity. Three areas are getting particular attention. The increase in portion sizes. The potential legal liability of food companies. And the foods and beverages available at schools, as well as the disappearance of physical education as part of the curriculum. If progress is to be made, people will need to develop healthier eating and exercise habits. The food industry can contribute to both. Some companies, such as Kraft Foods and Subway are emerging with proactive strategies. Community programs which encourage physical activity, such as Colorado on the Move, and now America on the Move, are drawing increasing attention. With a shift in attitudes toward "less can be more" and quality over quantity, food spending might actually increase, which suggests there may be a "silver lining" of opportunity for savvy food companies.


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