Clinton's plan -- put together with the cooperation of Kraft Foods, Mars, Campbell Soup, Dannon and PepsiCo -- is to discourage schools from stocking vending machines with traditional foods high in salt, sugar, fat and calories, and instead promote foods that meet American Heart Association guidelines.
"This is voluntary, (the food companies) don't have to do it," Clinton said of the agreement, created through the work of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a project of the William J. Clinton Foundation, and the American Heart Association. "They recognize the challenge we face and they are helping us take the first step."
Currently, the 2004 Texas Department of Agriculture guidelines encourage smaller soft drink sizes in high school vending machines, the banning of candy in elementary schools, and the restriction of candy to after lunch in middle and high schools. Clinton's guidelines have been generally recognized as superior, as they call for snacks that get 35 percent or less of their calories from fat and more than 10 percent from saturated fat. Sugar would be limited to 35 percent by weight under the guidelines.
The plan has been met with both positive and negative reactions from parties concerned with children's nutritional health.
"It has to have some enforcement behind it," said Janey Thornton, president of the School Nutrition Association and a child nutrition director in Kentucky. "We have some pretty strict regulations here in Kentucky, but some states have none, and that's where I think the problem comes in."
Mike Adams, junk food critic and author of "Grocery Warning," said the problem with the guidelines was that they were not a serious effort on the part of junk food manufacturers.
"These voluntary junk food agreements are worthless," he said. "They are the result of food industry giants trying to avoid meaningful legislation by appearing to preemptively solve the problem, but as we all know, the food companies are far more interested in profits than protecting the health of children. Otherwise, they could have voluntarily taken these actions long before now.
"Food manufacturers shouldn't have to wait for a negotiated agreement to do the right thing."