Beverage giants like Coke and Pepsi Co. have come under heavy fire from children’s advocates, health experts and parents alike in recent years. Perhaps one of the most controversial issues in the soda wars is the “sponsorship” many schools obtain in exchange for stocking the hallways with vending machines. Exploiting our children in order to cover costs has to be one of the most disgusting examples of Big Agra’s power over our next generation’s health. So when Coke, Pepsi and Cadbury Schweppes announced they were pulling sugary beverages from schools in favor of “healthier” options like low-fat milk, diet drinks, and 100% juices, it was a begrudging step in the right direction. We don’t drink milk in our family and I’m not in favor of sports drinks, diet carbonated beverages or juice drinks, but at least this move was a measurable improvement over cans of corn syrup-clogged soda. (Bill Clinton lauded it as “courageous”.)
Moving forward: the Times has investigated the aftermath now that the rosy publicity glow has died down. According to the article, soda would have been cut eventually anyway because of pending litigation; and sports drinks would have likely been removed as well. (So-called “performance beverages” are completely unnecessary for children – even those who play sports.) The real concern here is that the beverage companies quietly added a loophole a few months back for “other” sweetened – enhanced – beverages like Propel and Vitaminwater. While these drinks contain fewer calories per serving than many sodas, they’re still loaded with sugar and/or corn syrup. And although an 8-ounce serving can’t contain more than 66 calories if it’s to be sold in schools, what teenager is going to split the bottle 2.5 ways at the cafeteria table? It all amounts to business as usual, only now, it’s being done under the guise of promoting children’s health.
- Photo from Inherit the Mirth