Soft drinks should not be sold in U.S. schools despite the revenues they generate because overconsumption of sugar-laden beverages can lead to obesity and tooth decay, according to a leading pediatricians' organization.
A number of school districts in the U.S. and Canada have entered into exclusive contracts with beverage companies. The American Academy of Pediatrics said that in America, such contracts are worth roughly $200 million annually to schools. The American-based National Soft Drink Association said about 200 out of 1,200 school districts have such contracts, similar to those reached with some movie theater and fast food restaurant chains.
A policy statement published in the pediatrician group's journal, Pediatrics, urged school administrators and parents to require beverage companies to offer unsweetened fruit juices, water and milk in school vending machines.
According to the statement, soft drinks are already heavily promoted in society at large, and up to 85 percent of children drink at least one can daily. Besides being an unhealthy component in children's diets, the sugary drinks also contribute to tooth decay. Each can of soft drink contains roughly 150 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar, according to the authors.
The group says it is not against soft drinks, but the school environment is not the ideal place for such drinks, and that drinks vended during school hours and even after school should be healthful.
The beverage industry responded to the physicians' policy statement by saying in-school offerings have already been broadened to include bottled water, sugar-free and caffeine-free drinks, sport drinks and teas. Some are even experimenting with milk-based products for school vending machines, adding that the average secondary school student consumes 1.4 beverages out of a vending machine a week. They suggest this rate of consumption does not show these kids are guzzling soft drinks.
The soft drink association said school vending machines are already shut down during lunch by law, and cited a study showing soft drinks were not replacing milk in children's diets.
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