Consumer advocacy groups are very happy with a pledge, announced Tuesday by PepsiCo, that the company will stop selling full-sugar soft drinks to primary and secondary schools around the world by 2012.
"PepsiCo is the first beverage company to take such action and should be applauded for doing so," said Kelly Brownell, director of Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, in a statement. The thing he likes best about it, he said, is the fact that the pledge is global--noting that tobacco companies "were notorious for counteracting sales in the U.S. with exploitation of markets elsewhere, particularly in developing countries." PepsiCo already has such a policy in place in the U.S., so that does seem like the main development.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest also applauded the move, which stems from a campaign led by CSPI called the "Global Dump Soft Drinks Campaign."
Caveats: This move doesn't eliminate fruit juice from schools -- and these can pack a sizable calorie punch, even if they do seem to get a pass from many nutritionists. It also won't eliminate lesser-calorie beverages that still are fairly sugary, such as Gatorade. These sports drinks have about half as many calories as do sugary sodas. And, Brownell said, it remains to be seen whether these moves would result in reduced consumption by kids of sugared beverages overall, not just in schools.
Coca-Cola and the International Council of Beverage Assns. were also at negotiations that led to the PepsiCo announcement -- these took place in Geneva, convened by the World Heart Federation. (yes, that's Heart, not Health).
Coke made an announcement last week that it would not sell its drinks in primary schools unless the schools asked them to do so "to meet hydration needs," and will continue to sell sugary sodas in high schools. The Center for Science in the Public Interest doesn't think much of that as a plan. "Shame on Coca Cola," it says in a statement.
Earlier this month, the American Beverage Assn. released a report on school beverages, in which it reported an 88% decrease in total calories in beverages shipped to schools and a 95% decrease in shipments of full-calorie beverages. Read about it here. And read the whole report here.
"The beverage mix in schools continues to shift to waters, portion-controlled sports drinks, diet drinks and 100 percent juices, " it stated.
Here's a story by the Associated Press on the PepsiCo announcement.
-- Rosie Mestel
Photo: The ones on the left won't be showing up in schools around the world, pretty soon. Photo credit: Daniel Acker / Bloomberg