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Cabinet secretaries, Dodd praise Bloomberg effort on obesity

Four former Cabinet secretaries praised New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg last week for his efforts to counter obesity, even though his latest proposal to ban the sale of super-sized drinks has garnered criticism.

Asked at a Bipartisan Policy Center event on obesity last Tuesday how they viewed Bloomberg’s proposal were Dan Glickman, an Agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration; Ann Veneman, an Agriculture secretary in the George W. Bush administration; Donna Shalala, a Health and Human Services secretary in the Clinton administration, and Mike Leavitt, an HHS secretary in the Geroge W. Bush administration

All declined to endorse the ban, but each found something positive to say about Bloomberg’s effort.

“None of us is in a position to judge what a local official does,” Glickman said. “It’s important that mayors and local officials show leadership. Portion size is an issue.”

Glickman, who also headed the Motion Picture Association of America and still goes to the movies frequently, said that on a recent trip to a theater he overhead another patron ask the attendant at the snack counter, “Do you have a smaller cup?”

“Just making the proposal has been a big education piece for New Yorkers,” said Veneman, who lives in New York City. She also noted that signs telling people how much sugar is in the foods they eat are posted in the city’s subways.

“Bloomberg is recognizing that [the increased health care costs from obesity] is costing the city money, everybody money,” Veneman said.

Leavitt, who is expected to head Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s transition team if Romney is elected, said, Bloomberg’s proposal is “a good example of a local initiative we’ll all learn from.”

Christopher Dodd, the former Democratic Connecticut senator who succeeded Glickman as the head of the Motion Picture Association, said in an interview last Tuesday, “Bloomberg is on the right track.”

The new rules would include the sale of super-sized drinks in movie theaters, but Dodd said businesses adjust to regulations all the time. “This is not terribly hard to accommodate,” Dodd said. “This is not heavy lifting.”

The interview with Dodd was conducted after he attended a press conference at which officials of the Walt Disney Company, joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, announced that they would make the foods they serve healthier and establish higher standards for the foods advertised on Disney-owned media.