By Elise Viebeck - 07/26/12 10:31 PM EDT
A health advocacy group slammed first lady Michelle Obama's anti-obesity initiative for "abandoning" major efforts to reform the American diet.
The first lady is taking the "noncontroversial" route by focusing on exercise instead of nutrition, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) charged.
But health advocates and a prominent Democratic lawmaker have expressed disappointment too, saying "Let's Move" has softened its tone to placate food and drink interests in an election year.
"They went wobbly in the knees," Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) told Reuters in April. "I'm upset with the White House ... When it comes to kids' health, they shouldn't go wobbly in the knees."
The White House has disputed this characterization, saying that better nutrition remains a major priority for Obama.
On Friday, the first lady is scheduled to lead a "Let's Move" exercise event in London related to the Olympic Games.
Recommendations about fitness "will not combat skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol," the group stated.
"Obesity is fueled by the hot dogs, burgers, and junk food that are being fed to children in school and at home," said PCRM nutrition education director Susan Levin.
"The Let’s Move campaign needs to address the causes of obesity in America, not sweep them under the rug."
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
PCRM has received attention in the past for provocative campaigning. Its efforts have included billboards that read "Hot Dogs Cause Butt Cancer," and in May, a petition that President Obama stop eating junk food in public.
The group has also called on federal officials to remove dairy as a required food group in school lunches, and it denounces skim milk for offering "almost the same calorie load" as soda.
It plans to post ads championing its position on "Let's Move" in Washington's Union Station starting Aug. 1. The posters will feature children who ask not to eat hot dogs, cheese and milk in school.
"The sputtering 'Let’s Move' campaign needs to get back in gear," PCRM said in a release.