Following is the reaction of Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert, to the agreement negotiated by former President Bill Clinton with Cadbury Schweppes, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to remove non-diet soft drinks from schools across the country.
“Today’s agreement shows the growing power of the movement to protect our children from corporate predators such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Cadbury-Schweppes. We are one step closer to a world where these companies are no longer a threat to our children.”
“But the deal is far from perfect. It still apparently permits these companies to advertise in schools, on scoreboards, vending machines and elsewhere. Nor does it stop them from advertising on Channel One, which compels more than 7 million children to watch ads in schools each day. It is wrong to use the public schools to deliver private propaganda to impressionable schoolchildren.”
“Is there any enforcement mechanism for this agreement? If there is no real enforcement provision, it won’t be strong enough to bind the beverage companies to their word.”
“In 2001, Coca-Cola received a huge tide of good press for promising to stop making exclusive marketing deals with schools. But Coca-Cola Enterprises continued to make exclusive contracts with schools. Will national or local bottlers undermine this deal too?”
“Why is the time frame so extended for this agreement? The industry does not even promise to fully implement the new guidelines by the 2009-10 school year.”
“The agreement does not assure that soft drinks remaining in schools will not be contaminated with the carcinogen benzene.”
“Finally, it’s long past time for USDA to enforce its current rules regarding the sale of food of minimal nutritional value in schools, and for Congress to strengthen them, so that candy and sweetened soft drinks are banned, and schools provide good nutrition to children, not junk food.”