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The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that several soft drink companies, looking to avoid regulatory moves by local and state governments, will announce today voluntary restrictions on how they market their products in the nation’s schools.

Under new industry guidelines, the WSJ writes, “the companies eventually will halt all sales of carbonated soft drinks in elementary schools and remove all sugared drinks from middle schools during school hours. The new policy applies only to new contracts, not existing ones, meaning that it could take several years for the restrictions to catch up with many schools.

“The guidelines still permit sales of all drinks in middle schools after the school day, and allow sales of diet soft drinks, sports drinks, low calorie juice drinks, juices and water all day. No beverages are banned from high schools, but the association is recommending that at least half of vending-machine slots in those schools be allocated to noncarbonated beverages such as juice and water.”

The move, which is targeted at reducing the national level of childhood obesity, is supported by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, among other beverage companies, and coordinated by the American Beverage Association.
KC's View:
Taking the bull by the horns is a smart move by the soft drink companies – better to appear sensitive and responsive to the public’s concerns than to continue to resist.

But at some level, these companies need to send the following message to parents: “Now, it’s your turn.” Because if parents don’t pay attention to what their kids eat and drink, don’t work hard to see that their kids consume a varied and healthful diet, then all the voluntary restrictions in the world won’t work.

And that won’t be the soft drink companies’ fault.