Bottlers agree: No more selling their sweetened drinks in school

June 1, 2006

The first significant victory in the battle against childhood obesity may be that major soft-drink bottlers have acquiesced to removing sweetened drinks such as Pepsi, Sprite, and iced tea from school cafeterias and vending machines. According to an agreement reached in May among Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Cadbury Schweppes (makers of Dr. Pepper and Snapple drinks), the Clinton Foundation, and the American Heart Association, students in elementary grades would be served only bottled water, low-fat and non-fat milk, and eight-ounce servings of 100% fruit juice. Middle school children could get slightly larger servings, and high school students would be permitted low-calorie juice drinks, sports drinks, and diet sodas.

The first significant victory in the battle against childhood obesity may be that major soft-drink bottlers have acquiesced to removing sweetened drinks such as Pepsi, Sprite, and iced tea from school cafeterias and vending machines. According to an agreement reached in May among Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Cadbury Schweppes (makers of Dr. Pepper and Snapple drinks), the Clinton Foundation, and the American Heart Association, students in elementary grades would be served only bottled water, low-fat and non-fat milk, and eight-ounce servings of 100% fruit juice. Middle school children could get slightly larger servings, and high school students would be permitted low-calorie juice drinks, sports drinks, and diet sodas.

The agreement is voluntary, and depends on renegotiation of existing contracts between school systems and the manufacturers. An estimated 35 million school children would be affected; an additional 15 million attend schools that already operate under stricter guidelines. The industry estimates it will take three years for the agreement to be fully put into effect. The deal does not address the question of soft-drink advertisements in schools. Beverage makers advertise on Channel One TV, watched by some seven million school children a day.