Soda makers to cut sales in U.S. schools

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NEW YORK (AP) – Tens of millions of students will no longer be able to buy non-diet sodas in the nation’s public schools, under an agreement announced Wednesday between major beverage distributors and anti-obesity advocates.

The distributors, working with a joint initiative of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, also have agreed to sell only water, juice and low-fat milks to elementary and middle schools, said Jay Carson, a spokesman for former President Clinton.

Cadbury Schweppes, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the American Beverage Association have all signed onto the deal, Carson said, adding that the companies represent “a very significant market share.” The American Beverage Association represents the majority of school vending bottlers.

“Only a coalition of this type can make such a sweeping move affecting so many students at once,” Carson said. “It’s a bold and sweeping step that industry and childhood obesity advocates have decided to take together.”

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

How quickly the changes take hold will depend in part on individual school districts’ willingness to alter existing contracts, the release said. The companies will work to implement the changes at 75 percent of the nation’s public schools by the 2008-2009 school year, and at all schools a year later.

Until now, changes in student diets have been made largely by individual school districts and state and local governments. This agreement, however, will effect all public schools with contracts with the participating distributors.

Many school districts around the country have begun to replace soda and candy in vending machines with healthier items, and dozens of states have considered legislation on school nutrition this year.

The agreement follows an August decision by the American Beverage Association to adopt a policy limiting soft drinks in high schools to no more than 50 percent of the selections in vending machines. That recommendation was not binding.

The association suggested that machines with soft drinks and full-calorie juice drinks be available in middle schools for organizations that may hold meetings at the schools but that the drinks not be available during school hours.

Most elementary schools are already soda-free.

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