Pepsi Initiates Move to Pull Sugared Soft Drinks from Schools in 200 Countries

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PepsiCo Inc announced Tuesday of this week that it will remove all of its full-calorie sweetened soft drinks from schools in more than 200 countries by the year 2012. Organizations such as the World Heart Federation and the Center for Science in the Public Interest applaud the soft-drink giant’s efforts to reduce its influence on young children.

PepsiCo, the second largest soft drink maker in the world behind Coca-Cola, announced the plan on the same day that First Lady Michelle Obama urged major food companies to reduce fat, salt, and sugar into foods that are marketed to children.

In elementary schools, PepsiCo will only sell water, fat-free or low-fat milk, and juice with no added sugar. In secondary schools, the company will provide low-calorie beverages, such as Diet Pepsi. Sport drinks will be sold only to students engaged in sports and physical activities. The new policy takes effect on January 1, 2011, and the company says it hopes to have full compliance by January of 2012.

"We have long advocated for school settings to be made as conducive as possible to promoting the health of students, and we have programs under way with school authorities in several countries to do that," said PepsiCo Chairwoman and CEO Indra Nooyi.

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The World Heart Federation has been urging for the removal of sugary soft drinks from schools for the past year to fight the rise in childhood obesity. Federation president Pekka Puska says that the move is especially important in developing countries, such as Mexico, where the marketing effort of soft drinks is extremely intensive.

The Centers for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit health advocacy group, are also behind PepsiCo’s efforts. “We applaud PepsiCo for its global commitment not to sell carbonated sugary soft drinks in schools,” said Bruce Silverglade, legal affairs director of CSPI and president of the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations.

Coca-Cola announced earlier in the month that the company will also be changing its global sales policy to eliminate sales of soft drinks is primary schools world-wide unless parents or districts ask. The move does not apply to secondary schools, as the company maintains that “schools should have the right to choose what is best”.

The American Beverage Association reports that sales of full-calorie soft drinks fell 95% in US schools between 2004 and 2009, particularly after the industry adopted new guidelines in 2006 as part of an agreement with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint initiative of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association.

Of course, eliminating soft drinks will not end the rising trend of childhood obesity, however, learning better eating and drinking habits in schools are certainly a step in the right direction.

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