Soft Drink Makers Back Federal Rules
Soda Industry Says it Will Support Bill to Curb School Vending
Sept. 14, 2007 - After years of opposition, soda and soft drink
manufacturers are now backing efforts for new federal rules restricting snacks
and sugary drinks in schools, an industry representative says.
The shift comes as lawmakers in Washington prepare to debate a proposal
touted by supporters as a step toward stemming rising rates of childhood
obesity. The bill would force the government to update 35-year-old nutrition
standards that allow the sale of sodas and low-nutrition snack food in vending
machines and at a la carte counters.
Major soft drink manufacturers agreed last spring to a voluntary deal that
takes sugared sodas and other drinks out of elementary and middle schools. But
for years it has opposed efforts to make new standards part of national
The industry is no longer opposing a new national standard, said Susan
Neely, president of the American Beverage Association, the trade group
representing Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and other drink makers. The reason for the
shift, she suggested, is that the nutritional requirements are unlikely to be
much stricter than voluntary standards already endorsed by the industry.
“We are moving full-caloried soft drinks out of the nation’s schools,” Neely
told reporters at a forum on the new proposals Friday. “It is basically a de
facto national standard.”
A Senate committee is scheduled to begin debate on the standards early this
fall. The rule would force the Department of Agriculture to bring nutrition
guidelines for vending machines, snack counters, and other points of sale in
line with those governing school lunches.
“In essence the framework is the same,” Neely said, referring to the
proposed law and the voluntary standards being put in place by the industry.
The standards restrict elementary and middle school vending machines and snack
counters to selling milk, juice, and water.
The industry and lawmakers have not agreed on sales of higher-calorie soft
drinks and sports drinks in high schools, she said.
"Discussions between our staff and the beverage industry on this effort
are ongoing and we are hopeful to reach resolution, but we are not there
yet," says Kate Cyrul, spokeswoman for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). He
is the main proponent of new laws regulating snack food in schools.
At least 17 states have nutrition standards for food sold in schools, while
several more are considering new rules, according to the National Conference of
Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the
Public Interest, the main group pushing for new standards, says school
nutrition is a problem that should be addressed in Washington.
“Congress shouldn’t pass the buck on childhood obesity,” she says.
Agriculture legislation that passed the House in July did not include an
update to school nutrition standards.
(How nutritious are the lunches
at your child’s school? Share your thoughts on WebMD's Parenting:
Preschoolers and Grade Schoolers message board.)