Clinton Fights Obesity on 'Rachael Ray'

Former President Bill Clinton appears on an episode of "Rachael Ray" today to announce a partnership with the popular chef to publicize various anti-obesity initiatives, the New York Times reported yesterday. Clinton used his surprise cameo in Ray's television kitchen to publicize the collaboration between her nonprofit Yum-o Organization and the Clinton Foundation's Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded in cooperation with the American Heart Association.

Ray's nonprofit Yum-o Organization is intended to educate consumers about healthy, easy-to-prepare foods through a variety of channels, including show segments, a dedicated Web site, scholarships and related media exposure. (The name is taken from Ray's frequent exclamation of culinary delight.)

According to the Times article, the organization will work with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation by rewarding participating schools with Ray's branded cookware or personal appearances by the star. Ray and the Alliance are also cooperating to promote Nickelodeon's Go Healthy Challenge.

According to figures cited by Clinton during his appearance, about 13 million American children are overweight, and one in three will develop Type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives.

The push from the Clinton Foundation, which organizes voluntary industry reform, among many other activities, comes in the midst of growing congressional and regulatory scrutiny of the relationship between children's TV advertising and childhood obesity. Although previous self-regulation efforts by food advertisers were deemed a success by the FTC, congressional Democrats are contemplating government regulations on TV advertising--an outcome considered disastrous for the industry.

Recently Great Britain enacted a sweeping ban on junk food advertising during children's programming, which some fear will serve as a model for congressional legislation.

After the last round of self-regulatory standards were adopted in November 2006, Michael Jacobson, head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, dismissed them in these terms: "The Council of Better Business Bureaus has proven once again that self-regulation simply doesn't work to protect kids from junk-food marketing. The initiative it announced... is pathetically weak and would result in virtually no change in the status quo."

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