Soft drinks industry slashes calories in US schools

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The US soft drinks industry said Monday it had slashed the amount of high-calorie sodas sold in schools as part of a broader attempt to combat raging obesity.

Leading companies, including Coca-cola and PepsiCo, joined former president Bill Clinton in an initiative that has reduced by 88 percent the number of drinks calories in schools across the country since 2004.

"It's a brand new day in America's schools when it comes to beverages," the head of the American Beverage Association, Susan Neely.

"Our beverage companies have slashed calories in schools as full-calorie soft drinks have been removed. The beverages available to students are now lower-calorie, nutritious, smaller-portion choices."

The cuts were the result of an agreement between the big soft drinks companies and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Clinton Foundation.

Nearly one in five US children aged six to 19 are estimated to be obese.

Clinton, who underwent heart surgery last month and is an active campaigner for better health, said the program to reduce ultra-sugary drinks in schools was "a critical component of the Alliance's national effort to end childhood obesity."

Under the project, full-calorie drinks were removed from shipments to school canteens and vending machines, while lighter and more nutritious drinks were added.

These included low-fat milk, diet soft drinks, flavored waters and teas.

The companies also spent millions of dollars in retrofitting vending machines and repackaging products.

"School is a unique environment where students make food and beverage choices with limited supervision," said Clyde Yancy, president of the American Heart Association.

"The Alliance School Beverage Guidelines are a tool for reducing students' access to calories during the school day and changing behaviors that may lead to a lifelong improvement in caloric consumption."