Coca-Cola to Market Healthier Drinks in Public Schools
The Coca-Cola Co. is expected today to announce plans to change the way it markets soft drinks in schools by installing "healthier drinks" in vending machines, putting "non-commercial signage" on machines and "advocating non-exclusive deals between bottlers and school districts" (AP/Arizona Republic, 3/14). According to the Wall Street Journal, the wider array of products will include juices, water and caffeine-free beverages. The company also will launch an education advisory council to help develop physical fitness and other programs for students (Wall Street Journal, 3/14). The announcement comes in response to criticism that the company's products and marketing practices compromise student health. The USDA, which already requires school lunches and breakfasts to meet nutritional standards, in February asked Congress for authority to regulate all foods and beverages sold in schools, saying that selling sodas and junk food on campuses -- a source of funds for cash-strapped schools -- sends "mixed messages" about nutrition. School nutrition experts have also advocated government restrictions on such sales in order to keep students "from filling up on junk food and skipping cafeteria meals" (AP/Arizona Republic, 3/14) Coca-Cola Americas President Jeffrey Dunn said the company planned to have the alternative products in many of its 100,000 school vending machines by September. The move is unlikely to have much impact on Coca-Cola's overall sales, however, as middle and high school sales account for less than 1% of the company's total. Pepsi Cola is also pursuing "many of the same ideas," according to Pepsi spokesperson Larry Jabbonsky (AP/Albany Times Union, 3/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.