Prepared Foods August 23, 2005, enewsletter

The American Beverage Association's (ABA) board of directors approved a new school vending policy aimed at providing lower-calorie and/or nutritious beverages to schools and limiting the availability of soft drinks in schools. Under the new policy, the beverage industry will provide:

* Elementary schools with only water and 100% juice.
* Middle schools with only nutritious and/or lower-calorie beverages, such as water, 100% juice, sports drinks, no-calorie soft drinks, and low-calorie juice drinks. No full-calorie soft drinks or full-calorie juice drinks with 5% or less juice until after school; and
* High schools with a variety of beverage choices, such as bottled water, 100% juice, sports drinks, and juice drinks. No more than 50% of the vending selections will be soft drinks.

The ABA is asking beverage producers and school districts to implement the new policy as soon as possible. Where school beverage contracts already exist, the policy would be implemented when the contract expires or earlier if both parties agree. The success of the policy is dependent on voluntary implementation of it by individual beverage companies and by school officials. The policy will not supercede federal, state and local regulations already in place. ABA's board of directors, which unanimously approved the policy, represents 20 companies that comprise approximately 85% of school vending beverage sales by bottlers.

"Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the U.S., and the responsibility for finding common-sense solutions is shared by everyone, including our industry. We intend to be part of the solution by increasing the availability of lower-calorie and/or nutritious beverages in schools," said Susan K. Neely, ABA president and chief executive officer.

The beverage industry provides a wide variety of beverage products to schools, including bottled water, juice, juice drinks, teas, sports drinks, dairy-based beverages, and full- and no-calorie soft drinks. The industry will continue to develop innovative new beverage choices, including additional low- and no-calorie products.

"Healthy and active kids can certainly enjoy soft drinks and juice drinks, but we understand that parents want more control over what their younger children consume in school, and we want to support them with this policy," Neely said.

The ABA plans to run print and broadcast advertising to educate the public about the new policy.