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Michelle Obama launches healthy food and beverage company for kids

<i>Mary Altaffer/AP</i><br/>Former first lady Michelle Obama
Mary Altaffer/AP
Former first lady Michelle Obama

By Jack Forrest, CNN

Former first lady Michelle Obama announced Wednesday the launch of a healthy food and beverage company she co-founded to offer parents “healthier, great-tasting products” for their children.

“I’ve learned that on this issue, if you want to change the game, you can’t just work from the outside. You’ve got to get inside—you’ve got to find ways to change the food and beverage industry itself,” Obama said in a speech at The Wall Street Journal’s Future of Everything Festival. “I’m proud to announce the national launch of a company designed not just to provide better products, but to jumpstart a race to the top that will transform the entire food industry.”

Obama is launching PLEZi Nutrition, she said at the festival. Its first product, PLEZi — a fruit juice for kids — contains 75% less sugar than average leading 100% fruit juices.

PLEZi is already available at some major retailers, with the company planning to roll out other snacks and beverages in the coming years “focused on lowering sugar content and lowering sweetness to help adjust kids’ palates to crave less sweetness,” according to a news release.

The former first lady holds the title of co-founder and “Strategic Partner” at the nutrition company, which will operate as a public benefit company with a “mission to create higher standards for how the U.S. makes and markets food and beverages for kids,” the release said.

Obama in her role as first lady spearheaded the Let’s Move campaign, a program aimed at ending childhood obesity. The crowning achievement of that campaign was the passage of the 2010 “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act,” which created federal nutrition standards for school lunches.

Let’s Move persisted through criticism from Republicans, food companies, school lunch professionals, and — perhaps most visibly — school kids themselves, some of whom registered their displeasure at new school lunch rules by posting unappetizing photos of meals on social media.

CNN previously reported that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the prevalence of obesity dropped 43% among young children — aged 2 to 4 — between 2004 and 2012. Despite those efforts, rates of childhood obesity have increased in children ages 6 to 11, a sign that some efforts under the Obama administration may not have been a cure-all, experts previously told CNN.

Obama’s office said in the news release that the United States is in a “nutrition-related health crisis” and claimed children are consuming “far too much” sugar — on average, 53 pounds of added sugar a year.

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CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Rachel Fadem contributed to this report.

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