With the rise in childhood obesity being blamed on the beverage industy, three major soft drink companies have agreed to substitute their sugary soft drinks with low-calorie or nutritious beverages in school.
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation. a joint initiative of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, negotiated the plan with Cadbury Schweppes, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo as well as the American Beverage Association, a trade group.
According to Ira Magaziner, chairman of the program board of the Clinton Foundation the agreement would covers more than 90 percent of the beverage industry.
The agreement, alone, made one of the industry's critics, the Center for Science in the Public Interest to drop its threat of a lawsuit.
However sugary pop sales in schools, mainly from vending machines in secondary schools, won't stop immediately.
The agreement calls for the beverage industry to spread the standards to 75 percent of schools nationwide by the start of the 2008-09 school year, with full compliance by 2009-10, as long as existing contracts can be amended.
Under the guidelines of the agreement:
Beverages sold in schools could have no more than 100 calories per container, except for some kinds of milk as well as juices that meet certain nutritional standards, such as unsweetened orange juice.
Milk should be limited to skim and 1 percent.
In addition to water, elementary and middle schools can offer unsweetened juice and low-fat milk, but portions should be limited to 8 ounces in elementary and 10 ounces in middle school.
In addition to juice and low-fat milk, high schools could offer no-calorie and low-calorie drinks (bottled water, diet and unsweetened teas, diet sodas, fitness water, low-calorie sports drinks, flavored water and seltzers), light juices and sports drinks. Except for water, containers are limited to 12 ounces.
There are exceptions for certain events, such as football games and others attended by parents and students.
Nationwide, all schools that participate in the federal school lunch program must have a wellness policy, including addressing nutrition, in place on July 1.
Robert Eckel, president of the American Heart Association said, 'We think it will make an important difference. How much difference it is going to make alone is unclear. There clearly is a lot more to childhood obesity than beverages in schools.'
The American Heart Association plans to reach a similar agreement with snack food makers to have healthier choices such as chips that are baked rather than fried and items without trans fats.