Feeling the Heat, Soda Manufacturers Pull Products from Schools
> 5/4/2006 9:12:54 AM

Push looks like it is finally coming to shove and under intense pressure from many angles, soda manufacturers are voluntarily pulling their sugary, calorie laden drinks from schools nationwide, the Washington Post reports. Money is obviously an issue here, but one principal offers a refreshing approach to education:

Such efforts are cutting into the revenues that schools receive from vending machines, principals say, and the national agreement will doubtless accelerate that trend.

"The money is important, but not as important as kids' health," said Sean Bulson, principal at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

And in other news, this year's award for most obvious statement by an administrator goes to Sean Bulson! Seriously though, this is an incredibly important victory in the fight against obesity in this country. As we have discussed earlier, soda companies have already seen a drop off in demand for their worst offenders, but this action should mark a real turning point. Through no small effort, the public has gradually become hostile to sodas, which are often vilified as one of the worst offenders in terms of nutritional value vs. caloric intake.

The beverage industry has been under considerable pressure from parents and lawmakers to curb the sale of high-calorie, heavily sugared products, particularly in schools.

At the same time, a coalition of lawyers who successfully sued tobacco companies has been threatening over the past year to sue soft drink makers over selling sodas in schools. Joining with that coalition was the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a public advocacy group that has called for health warnings on soda similar to those on cigarettes.

"It's important to keep in mind that this action by the soft drink industry is as voluntary as a shotgun wedding,'' said Margo G. Wootan, the center's director of nutrition policy. "There is a lot of momentum on these issues at the state and local level."

There will be strict regulations on what can be sold to students in the schools, both in terms of size and content of the beverages. The national pact between the beverage makers and health advocates will limit sales in three tiers to correspond with elementary, middle and high school levels.

The national pact restricts the sale of drinks in elementary schools to water, milk and lower-calorie juices in containers no larger than eight ounces. In middle schools, those drinks can be 10 ounces.

In high schools, the drink size will be limited to 12 ounces. No sugary sodas will be sold, and half the drinks offered will be water or low-calorie beverages, such as diet soda. Sport drinks will be allowed if they have fewer than 100 calories.

With these beverages out of the schools, the one place where parent supervision is most absent, kids will be choosing between much healthier options when deciding what to drink. The onus still rests with parents however, to set a good example in the home and teach their children about making healthy decisions. These beverage manufacturers have absolutely no regard for my, your or anyone else's health, and they will continue to push their products using subversive advertisements and enticing product placements. Are they all as evil as I make them out to be, no, of course not. But they're close. This is just the first step, and while it's a good one, we need to continue to send the message that unhealthy products just aren't going to fly anymore. We can speak loudest with our wallets.

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