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The Washington Post reports that an agreement has been reached that will have the nation's beverage industry voluntarily removing all high-calorie soft drinks from all public elementary, middle and high schools.

According to the Post, "The agreement sets different rules for elementary schools, middle schools and high schools and comes at a time when the beverage industry is under increasing pressure to limit sales of its least healthful products in schools…The agreement calls for eliminating sales of sodas, diet sodas, sports drinks, juice drinks, apple juice or grape juice in elementary schools. Water and more healthful juices such as orange juice could continue to be sold, but in only eight ounce or smaller containers."

The Post notes that "in middle schools, the same drinks will be offered but in containers as large as 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 a low-calorie beverage, such as diet soda, diet lemonade or diet iced tea. Sports drinks will be allowed, as will juice drinks as long as they have fewer than 100 calories per serving."

Local governments and schools will, of course, be able to enforce stricter regulations.

The agreement expands on self-imposed regulations that were announced last year, and is timely in its announcement. "The announcement follows a report yesterday by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Trade Commission calling on the food, advertising and entertainment industries to limit their marketing of junk food to kids," the Post writes, noting that because "childhood obesity has doubled among young children and tripled among adolescents in the past 25 years, the report said companies must do more to promote more healthful products that are lower in calories and higher in nutritional benefits."

It is unknown whether the agreement will slow down some consumer and public health advocates who have been planning tobacco-style litigation against the soft drink companies for allegedly contributing to the nation's obesity crisis.

The agreement is a joint initiative of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, working with the nation's soft drink manufacturers.
KC's View:
As parents, we think this is an important move…but it will end up being irrelevant unless the schools invest in credible nutrition programs that teach kids about the importance of what they put in their bodies.

Teach kids of understand and love food in a healthy way, and a real difference can be made. Just take away soda, and it becomes about denial…and it will eventually be a fruitless endeavor.