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Soda companies still sweet on schools

A student purchases a soft drink from a vending machine.

TEXT OF STORY

Doug Krizner: You don't usually hear business groups brag about a drop in sales. But the American Beverage Association is bragging about fewer sugary drink sales in America's schools. Steve Henn reports.


Steve Henn: Total U.S. soda sales have been falling since 2004 -- and one reason might be a recent agreement between the world's biggest purveyors of sugar drinks and an anti-obesity alliance that got companies like Coke and Pepsi to promise to curtail the sale of their sweetest products in public schools.

Susan Neely represents the industry:

Susan Neely: There's been a 41 percent cut in total calories in beverages shipped to schools.

But soda companies quietly tweaked their agreement earlier this year, allowing vitamin waters and sweetened teas back into the mix.

Dr. Susan Linn's a professor at Harvard's school of public health, and is unimpressed:

Dr. Susan Linn: Sure, soda sales have declined. But what they've done is substitute the soda for sugary energy drinks.

Today, roughly two-thirds of all the drinks sold in schools still have huge amounts of sugar, and the vast majority of school systems still have contracts with soda companies.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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