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The Beverage Industry Does the Right Thing

From a story in USA Today (yes, you guessed it -- I'm on the road) on the beverage industry's agreement to remove sugared drinks from schools:

Under the voluntary agreement:
  • High schools will no longer sell high-calorie soft drinks during the school day but will offer water, low-fat and fat-free milk, diet soft drinks, low-calorie sports drinks, light juices and diet and unsweetened teas.

  • Elementary schools will sell only water and up to 8-ounce servings of 100% juice with no added sweeteners, and fat-free and low-fat milks. Middle schools have the same standards but with 10-ounce servings.
This really is tremendous news. I've blogged before on the dangers of sugared soda, and I've long been offended by the prevalence of such drinks in schools. It stunned me to see how easy it was for the beverage industry to buy the loyalty of so many school districts, who were all too willing to sacrifice student health for more funding.

Having said that, I think the industry deserves more credit than they're getting. When someone does the right thing, we should offer praise, not the criticism they're receiving:

The beverage industry's agreement to remove sugary soft drinks from public and private U.S. schools over the next three years... is drawing mixed reactions from kids and critics.

Barry Popkin, nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, says, "This is an important, useful first step, but it's quite shocking how long it took them to react." ...

"The soft-drink industry has been losing battles in local school districts and in state legislatures and simply saw the inevitable -- being kicked out from all schools," says Kelly Brownell of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University...

"The soft-drink industry's announcement is about as voluntary as a shotgun wedding. They see the writing on the wall and are trying to prevent further legislation and litigation," says Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

To Mssrs. Popkin, Brownell, and Wootan, whatever your feelings for the beverage industry may be, however pitched your battles with them may have been, this is a time to be magnanimous -- not because doing so would be polite (though it would be), but because there will be other battles to fight, with this industry and others, and you will want to be able to point to how graciously you reacted when you won in the past. As it stands, were I on the other side of an issue with you, your reaction to this announcement would give me pause before cooperating with you in the future.


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Oh wow, this is great news!

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