May 03, 2006

"SuperSize Me" Helps Rid Schools of Soda

NEW YORK - The nation's largest beverage distributors have agreed to halt nearly all soda sales to public schools, according to a deal announced Wednesday by the William J. Clinton Foundation.

Under the agreement, the companies have agreed to sell only water, unsweetened juice and low-fat milks to elementary and middle schools, said Jay Carson, a spokesman for former President Bill Clinton. Diet sodas would be sold only to high schools.

Cadbury Schweppes PLC, Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and the American Beverage Association have all signed onto the deal, Carson said, adding that the companies serve "the vast majority of schools." The American Beverage Association represents the majority of school vending bottlers.

The deal follows a wave of regulation by school districts and state legislatures to cut back on student consumption of soda amid reports of rising childhood obesity rates. Soda has been a particular target of those fighting obesity because of its caloric content and popularity among children.

Nearly 35 million students nationwide will be affected by the deal, The Alliance for a Healthier Generation said in a news release. The group, a collaboration between Clinton's foundation and the
American Heart Association, helped broker the deal.

"This is really the beginning of a major effort to modify childhood obesity at the level of the school systems," said Robert H. Eckel, president of the American Heart Association.

Under the agreement, high schools will still be able to purchase drinks such as diet and unsweetened teas, diet sodas, sports drinks, flavored water, seltzer and low-calorie sports drinks from distributors.
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