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PANEL OKS COMPROMISE ON JUNK FOOD AT SCHOOLS

SHARE PANEL OKS COMPROMISE ON JUNK FOOD AT SCHOOLS

Coca-Cola appears to have won its battle against a proposal that would have required the Agriculture Department to help local schools ban the sale of junk food on school grounds.

In approving legislation Wednesday to reauthorize all school lunch and nutrition programs, the Senate Agriculture Committee dropped the proposal to require the department to provide local schools with model policy language to ban junk food sales on school grounds until after the last lunch period.Instead, the committee approved a compromise requiring the department to send the model language only to elementary schools and to send secondary schools copies of its current regulations governing junk food sales at public schools.

Those rules prohibit the sale of junk food in school cafeterias during lunch hours and permit local school officials to impose additional restrictions on junk food sales "at any time throughout schools participating" in the school lunch program.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the committee and author of the original proposal, accused Coca-Cola last month of mounting a misinformation campaign based on "scare tactics rather than honest debate." He released copies of letters Coke had written to school officials across the country urging defeat of the proposal.

Coca-Cola officials have refused throughout the controversy to respond to Leahy, referring all questions to the National Soft Drink Association.

Drew Davis, the group's vice president, said Wednesday's compromise would have no effect on soft drink sales at schools, since elementary schools don't have any vending machines.