Limits on Sugary Drinks in School Aimed at Obesity

Sugary soft drinks will no longer be sold during regular school hours. The deal, announced by former President Bill Clinton, is aimed at fighting the rising problem of childhood obesity.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Our business report begins with a ban on sugary soft drinks in schools.

For generations of American students, taking a break meant hitting the soda machines. That will change in a couple of years under an agreement announced yesterday by former President Bill Clinton.

Former President BILL CLINTON: Cadbury Schweppes, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, and the American Beverage Association have agreed to new guidelines limiting the portion sizes and reducing the number of calories available to children through their products during the school day. Under these guidelines, only lower calorie and nutritious beverages will be sold in schools.

MONTAGNE: That means companies can't sell sugary, high calorie soft drinks in the schools. Soft drink companies will be able to sell water, 100 percent juice drinks, and low fat milk. High school students will be able to buy diet sodas and sports drinks like Gatorade. Mr. Clinton says the deal is aimed at the growing problem of childhood obesity.

President CLINTON: If present trends continue, this generation of young people could be the first to have shorter life expectancies than their parents.

MONTAGNE: Curbing soft drink sales won't hurt the $63 billion beverage industry, though. John Sicher is editor and publisher of Beverage Digest.

Mr. JOHN SICHER (Editor and Publisher, Beverage Digest): All these companies have big portfolios of non-carbonated products, water. The main change will be substitution and a repackaging, and, in some cases, a reformulation of some products. But they will still have a very significant brand presence in the schools.

MONTAGNE: In fact, the deal may be good business for the companies. Sales of carbonated drinks were down last year for the first time in decades, largely because consumers have shifted to bottled water and sports drinks.

John Sicher says both categories grew at a rate of 20 percent last year.

Some states had already limited sales of soft drinks in schools. Now, there will be national standards. Former President Clinton and other sponsors are hoping most schools will implement the new guidelines by the time kids begin school in 2008.

The new rules will apply to beverages sold on school grounds during the regular school day. When it comes to outside activities, such as sporting events and band concerts, kids are welcome to drink as much sugary soda as they can get away with.

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