Canadian elementary schools will be no longer be stocking pop as of the beginning of the next school year. The Canadian soft drink industry says it is voluntarily withdrawing its carbonated drinks from primary and middle schools across the country, while high schools will continue to stock soft drinks in their vending machines.
Refreshments Canada, a Toronto-based lobby group for Coke, Pepsi and other soft drink makers, insisted this week that its products are appropriate for schoolchildren, adding that the decision came in response to concerns from parents.
The member companies of Refreshments Canada won't have to give up their lucrative contracts in the education system, though. Soft drink manufacturers, who also market popular brands of sports drinks, fruit juices, iced teas and bottled water, will re-stock their vending machines with those products instead.
Such companies have begun renegotiating or rewording contracts with schools based on sales of soft drinks on the premises. Those contracts have provided much-needed revenues for cash-strapped boards, many of them in return for giving one pop manufacturer "exclusive pouring rights" over other brands. One school board in London, Ont., made $538,000 last year from soft drink sales to its students and members of the public using school properties.
With this announcement, Refreshments Canada may have pre-empted government action forcing them to withdraw from primary and middle schools entirely. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty had promised in last fall's election campaign to remove junk food vending machines from schools because of growing rates of childhood obesity, dental decay and type 2 diabetes.
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