It's no wonder the food industry is hurrying to outrun the increasingly influential food police staked out everywhere from city halls to the White House, always hungry for more regulation.
The group appears to be the industry's most high-profile and far-reaching attempt yet to thwart the nutrition cops by policing itself. Member companies have contributed more than $20 million to the effort so far.
And Darden Restaurants is emerging as a leader. The Orlando-based operator of Olive Garden and Red Lobster announced last week it was the first restaurant company to join the foundation, though it's not part of calorie-reduction pledge made by the food manufacturers.
What's more, in February, CEO Clarence Otis dined at the White House with other notable executives, including heavy-hitters in the food marketplace such as PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke, to discuss a variety of business issues.
I'd be willing to bet, though, that First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative to end childhood obesity came up before dessert. Darden included the First Lady's campaign as an item of interest in its most recent federal lobbying disclosure, which reported it spent nearly $300,000 in the first quarter.
The company is keeping quiet on what its involvement, if any, with Michelle Obama's efforts might be or whether its membership at the new foundation will lead to a similar pledge to cut calories among restaurants.
"I'm sure we'll have more to say, but we're not at a point yet where we're ready to say anything more," said spokesman Rich Jeffers.
Though it lacks specifics so far, Darden deserves credit for stepping out in front on this issue.
Ultimately, it's not Darden's responsibility if a customer decides to dine five times a week on Red Lobster's Admiral's Feast, a fried seafood plate that weighs in at 1,500 calories, 4,400 grams of sodium and 87 grams of fat. That's up to the customer. Just like I'm certain fellow moms in Santa Clara County, Calif., are capable of deciding what to feed their children without politicians outlawing Happy Meal toys.
But this era of increased transparency when it comes to what we're being served up in restaurants and grocery stores is a good thing that will help more people make better, healthful choices.
Case in point: A press release exclaiming," KFC Double Down fans Rejoice!" landed in my inbox last week.
KFC went on to say that later this month it will sell its 10 millionth Double Down — a sandwich in which two fried or grilled chicken filets serve as the "bread" holding two slices of cheese, two pieces of bacon and, of course, the Colonel's sauce.
The last line of the press release noted the fried version contains 540 calories, which it said was "similar numbers to many of the burgers available at fast food restaurants today."
I doubt the number would have even been included were it not for the recent push for more nutrition information.
So the food industry seems to be getting the message. Transparency is imperative when it comes to the products we are sold.
Darden has increased the items on its menus with a more healthful twist — in fact, its Seasons 52 concept is predicated on healthy choices — and it built its employees a showpiece gymnasium and outdoor walking trail at the headquarters it opened last year.
Now we'll see how much further the company goes in promoting healthy food and exercise on the national stage. Otherwise Otis will likely continue to sweat future regulation rather than just his regular cardio routine in the new corporate gym.
Beth Kassab can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5448. Read her blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/thebottomline.