Anticipated national nutrition standards for school snacks and drinks will be good for students’ health — and shouldn’t impact the bottom line in a negative way for the beverage industry.
New findings from the Center for Science in the Public Interest show that beverage sales in schools represent a tiny portion of total distribution for the industry — 0.7 percent of total beverages sold in the United States. That means that when the U.S. Department of Agriculture implements anticipated nutrition standards for drinks sold in school stores, a la carte lines and vending machines, the financial impact should be negligible.
Part of the reason? An agreement struck between the industry and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation in 2004 means that many schools already have removed full-calorie soft drinks from schools. The number of beverage calories shipped to schools dropped 90 percent between 2004 and the 2009-10 school year.
“Sugar drinks promote weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay in children and don’t belong in schools,” CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo Wootan said in a statement. “The good news is that finishing the job of getting sugar drinks out of schools should have a negligible financial impact on schools and the beverage industry.”
Since 2004, sales of unhealthy beverages in high schools decreased from 77 percent of beverages sold to 35 percent, according to CSPI. Meanwhile, the sale of healthier beverages jumped from 23 percent to 65 percent.
But there’s still work to be done. About 88 percent of high school students and 63 percent of middle schoolers have access to sugary drinks, including through sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade.
Reducing intake of sugary drinks is considered by most health experts to be a key to lowering obesity rates. CSPI reports that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages “steadily increased” from the 1950s until 1999, contributing to the nation’s obesity epidemic. While consumption has dropped since then, Americans are still drinking too much — in 2006, Americans drank an average of 175 calories per day from sugary drinks.
Nutritional guidelines for beverages sold in school are likely to be included in the USDA’s standards, including for mid-calorie drinks. In the proposed standards, the USDA recommended setting a calorie limit of 50 calories per eight ounces or 40 calories per eight ounces with a maximum portion size of 12 ounces.
Nearly 250,000 people across the childhood obesity movement sent the USDA comments in support of the standards, including more than 180,000 PreventObesity.net Leaders and Supporters. The agency is expected to unveil finalized standards this year.
Click here to read the full study.