May 6

Sweet Charity

2  comments

Finally, there’s a truly positive step in addressing the obesity epidemic in kids. The William J. Clinton Foundation announced last Wednesday that it has struck a deal with major soda manufacturers to end sales of liquid crack at schools. If you missed it, you can read an article about it here. Bravo, Bill!

By liquid crack, for those not familiar with my pet name for them, I refer to high-fructose-corn-syrup sweetened flavored water–ie, non-diet sodas. Childhood obesity, to my view, can be laid to no small degree at the doorstep of the explosion of fructose consumption, fueled mainly by a bottomless tank of HFCS sweetened beverages, a topic we wrote about extensively in The Protein Power LifePlan(Warner 2000).

With this bold move, the purveyors of empty-calorie, carbonated beverages will no longer be selling them in the school yards. It’s a real start.

Three cheers for Cadbury Schweppes, Coco-Cola, PepsiCo and the American Beverage Association for taking this important step on behalf of the health of American kids. Cynics will say that since they’re being kicked out of a lot of school vending machines by concerned parents and administrators anyway, the big players of the beverage industry have seen the way the parade is already going and are getting right out in front of it to at least take advantage of some good PR. Whatever their motivation, the upshot is that it’s an act of charity and responsible citizenship and it will be good for the kids.

So from my corner, I say: Hip Hip Hurrah!

Maybe my fondest wish–that the giants of the food industry would begin to act responsibly to stem the looming health crisis that will surely befall us when a nation of obese kids and teens becomes a nation of obese, diabetic, hypertensive, insulin-resistant sick adults–isn’t such a wild dream after all. Maybe next they’ll begin the gradual reduction of sweetness in these beverages, as I detailed in a recent blog.

Now if we could get the other big boys–those of the fast food world, exemplified by McD’s, Wendy’s, KFC, and Taco Bell–to further curtail the soda spigot by eliminating supersizing and putting their HFCS soda machines back behind the counter where they belong, leaving only water, soda water, and ice out and accessible for endless refills, we’d really be on to something.

The Clinton Foundation’s initiative is a small step on a long journey, but we’ll never get there any way but by taking one step forward…and then another…and then another.


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  1. While I agree that we should take what we can get, we should not lose sight of the non-carbonated sugary drinks which will sontinue on offer. Gatorade, for example, provides 14 grams of “The right mix of glucose, sucrose and fructose…” per eight ounce bottle. It ain’t the bubbles, folks.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: True, it’s not the bubbles, but then nobody ever implied that it was.
    My understanding of the agreement is that it will leave the door in school vending machines open only to fruit juices, milk, and water, which would preclude Gatorade and other similar “sports drinks” as well. The volunatary ban on sales doesn’t extend to football games or other school-related venues, so one would assume that sodas will still be sold at the concession stands and coolers of Gatorade will still grace the sidelines to be dumped onto victorious coaches’ heads. Now that I think of it, it’s a pretty good use for Gatorade.

  2. In California, where my son attends high school, the
    controlling legislation, SB 965, allows “An electrolyte replacement beverage that contains no more than 42 grams of added sweetener per 20-ounce
    serving”. This prohibition is fully effective starting 1 July, 2009. The Clinton agreement–non-binding–MAY be implemented by the same time.

    COMMENT by MD EADES: We, too, live part of the time in California and when there we’ve been able to follow the soda legislation saga somewhat and I applaud the effort; their hearts are in the right place. Sadly, although it curtails sales of non-electrolyte replacement beverages the California legislation isn’t much of a prohibition. Afterall, 42 grams of sugar or HFCS–even if it’s spike with a little salt–isn’t all that much healthier for kids than plain old soda. Granted, 42 grams in 20 ounces is better than 48 grams in 12 ounces. Must be a strong sports drink lobby working overtime. Still, I’ll take all positive steps and be thankful.

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