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Drink Companies Agree Not to Sell Sugary Soda in U.S. Schools

I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Health Report.

These days, about half of all drinks sold in American schools are sugary soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi. Opponents have fought these sales for years. They say sugary soft drinks are largely responsible for the increase in overweight young people.

The soft drink industry has rejected the blame and raised the issue of not enough physical exercise. But earlier this month there was a big announcement. The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Cadbury Schweppes have agreed to stop selling these products in schools.

The companies agreed to limit sales in high schools to diet soft drinks, sports drinks, juices, milk and water. High schools sell the most soft drinks. Elementary and middle schools would be limited to bottled water, milk and juice.

Limits on serving sizes and calorie counts in drinks are also part of the agreement.

States such as California and Connecticut have already banned or restricted soft drink sales in public schools. Other places have been considering action.

Leading soda makers say less than one percent of their money comes from school sales. But many schools face limited budgets. Marketing agreements with food and drink companies offer one solution. Many parents and others, though, say it is a bad solution.

The industry agreement is part of a campaign to reduce childhood obesity. The campaign is led by the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association.

The government says five percent of teenagers were overweight in nineteen eighty. By two thousand four, it was seventeen percent. For younger children, the rate increased from seven to nineteen percent.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest had threatened legal action if no agreement was reached. The group argues that sugary soda should come with health warnings, just like cigarettes.

The agreement is expected to be fully in place by two thousand ten. But other companies do not have to honor it. And some people say it does not go far enough.

In a separate development, the Disney Company and McDonald's last week announced an end to their ten-year alliance. Both sides say the decision to stop marketing Disney-related products in McDonald's Happy Meals was for business reasons. They rejected suggestions that Disney did not want to be linked to concerns about fast food and overweight children.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. I’m Steve Ember.