PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has announced that the company will phase out full-sugar carbonated soft drinks from all schools around the world. The move followed from the Global Dump Soft Drinks Campaign led by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The group proposed negotiations in 2008, which were led by the Geneva-based World Heart Federation with PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and the International Council of Beverage Associations.
PepsiCo’s policy will still allow the sale in high schools of non caloric drinks and sports drinks such as Gatorade that have about half the calories of regular carbonated soft drinks, and the policy will not limit the portion sizes of fruit juice.
Last week Coca-Cola, the world’s largest purveyor of what CSPI calls “liquid candy,” announced a policy, which also springs from the negotiations, that the company will “not offer our beverages for sale in primary schools.” But the policy then states that if school authorities request drinks “to meet hydration needs, we will endeavor to meet those requests.” The Coke policy explicitly allows the sale of its sugary soft drinks in high schools.
Smaller regional and national companies represented by the International Council of Beverage Associations, and others not represented by the association, did not make any commitments to change their policies.
“We applaud PepsiCo for its global commitment not to sell carbonated sugary soft drinks in schools,” says Bruce Silverglade, legal affairs director of CSPI and president of the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations, which represented CSPI and other consumer groups in the talks. “But shame on Coca-Cola for insisting on targeting high school students in most countries around the world. Childhood obesity is a world-wide problem and high school students everywhere deserve the same help as American high schoolers.”
The new policies come on the heels of a study by the American Beverage Association that shows that in the United States the industry has made very significant progress in getting high-calorie sodas out of all schools as a result of state and local pressure to remove soft drinks, a threat of litigation, and a 2006 agreement with health groups. That study found that non-diet soda, sports drinks, diluted fruit drinks, and ice teas have decreased dramatically over the past five years.
When the school lunch and other child nutrition programs are reauthorized by Congress this year, health advocates expect that the bill will require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to update the nutrition standards for foods sold in vending machines and a la carte programs in cafeterias, presumably excluding soda and other high-calorie drinks.
Pepsi’s new policy takes effect on January 1, 2011, and the company says it hopes to have full compliance by January of 2012. The company says that in some countries, parts of the distribution chain are out of its control. Coca-Cola’s policy does not go into effect until 2013 when the company says its existing beverage contracts with schools will expire. The International Diabetes Federation was also represented in the negotiations leading up to PepsiCo’s and Coca-Cola’s announcements.