WASHINGTON -- First lady Michelle Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin unveiled the new MyPlate icon and vowed to kick off the health message starting with a "Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables" campaign.
Ms. Obama, speaking at the morning press conference June 2, said that the plate icon with different color-coded food group slices is a "quick, simple reminder" of how to eat healthy.
"Since I've seen the icon, I can't help but look at my own plate a little differently to see whether I have enough fruits and veggies," she told reporters.
She said that parents and children can easily follow the simple icon. "And as long as they're eating proper portions, as long as half of their meal is fruits and vegetables alongside their lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, then we're good. It's as simple as that."
But the icon alone will not end the obesity epidemic. "It can't ensure that our communities have access to affordable fruits and vegetables," Ms. Obama said. "That's still work we need to do. We're going to build momentum around MyPlate with a coordinated long-range strategy that's going to include working with community and national partners and connecting with Americans through social media."
MyPlate replaces the MyPyramid image as the government's primary food-group symbol, and the government created the ChooseMyPlate.gov web site to provide practical nutrition information for individuals, health professionals, nutrition educators, and the food industry.
Government agencies are also kicking off a multi-year campaign calendar that will focus on a one healthy message at a time, starting with fruits and vegetables, and asking consumers to show their following the new recommendations by encouraging them to take a photo of their plates and share on Twitter with the hash-tag #MyPlate.
"I have to say from our industry's perspective the MyPlate graphic is really stunningly simple," said Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of the United Fresh Produce Association, one of a handful of food industry representatives who participated in a short press conference Thursday.
People ask whether fruits and vegetable growers fulfill the demand for half a plate, he said. "I do want to tell you we can, and we're looking forward to that opportunity," he added.
The Produce Marketing Association is "extremely pleased to see the USDA move in this direction that not only benefits our industry, but more importantly helps consumers make better choices for a healthy lifestyle," Bryan Silbermann, president and CEO of PMA, said in a June 2 press statement.
The Produce for Better Health Foundation also praised the government for embracing the plate icon and called on the produce industry to use the group's tools and tap social media to encourage consumers to follow the new recommendations.
A consumer advocate said the graphic would most likely surprise consumers who think they're following healthy diets.
"It likely will shock most people into recognizing that they need to eat a heck of a lot more vegetables and fruits," Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said in a press statement. "Most people are eating about a quarter of a plate of fruits or vegetables, not a half a plate as recommended."