• Industry Pulls Plug on School Soda Sales
  • May 19, 2006
  • Law Firm: Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • In a step that will affect millions of students across the country, the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association announced on May 3, 2006, that full-calorie soda sales in schools will end.

    The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, in association with representatives of Cadbury Schweppes, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and the American Beverage Association, has established new guidelines to limit portion sizes and reduce the number of calories available to children during the school day. Under these guidelines, only lower-calorie and nutritious beverages will be sold to schools.

    "This is an important announcement and a bold step forward in the struggle to help America's kids live healthier lives," former President Bill Clinton, a leader of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, said in a statement. "These industry leaders recognize that childhood obesity is a problem and have stepped up to help solve it. I commend them for being here today and for taking this important step."

    Under these newly established guidelines, elementary schools will only sell water and 8-ounce, calorie-capped servings of certain juices with no added sweeteners, as well as servings of fat-free and low-fat regular and flavored milks. Middle schools will apply the elementary school standard, with portion sizes increased to 10 ounces.

    In addition to the beverages available in elementary and middle schools, high schools will also sell no-calorie and low-calorie drinks, such as bottled water, diet and unsweetened teas, diet sodas, fitness waters, low-calorie sports drinks, flavored water, and seltzers, as well as light juices and sports drinks.

    Under the terms of the agreement, the beverage industry will work to spread the new standards to 75 percent of the nation's schools prior to the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year. The industry will strive to fully implement the guidelines prior to the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year, provided schools and school districts are willing to amend existing contracts.

    Significance: This is a major step for the beverage industry, which has been contending with finger-pointing from health advocates and lawmakers over the growing epidemic of childhood obesity, as well as an increasing number of state laws banning full-calorie sodas and other beverages from schools. Although the food and beverage industry serves as an easy scapegoat for those looking for a quick and easy answer to the problem of childhood obesity, it's not at all clear what role it really plays. It will be interesting to see whether this move actually makes a difference.