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Time for colas to sweat it out in fat California

Washington, Aug. 22: Colas in the US may not have high pesticide content as alleged in India, but California is set to ban them from schools in the Golden State all the same.

California’s Assembly yesterday voted to ban sales of aerated soft drinks in elementary school premises and restrict sales of these drinks at junior high schools on grounds of health.

The Democratic-sponsored bill allows elementary schools to make available to students only milk, water and juices that have at least 50 per cent fruit content and no sweeteners.

In junior high schools and middle schools, sale of beverages and electrolyte-replacing sports drinks would be allowed during school hours.

The measure has yet to be approved by the Senate and then signed into law by the state governor. If that happens, California will become the first state in the US to ban aerated drinks — popularly known here as sodas.

Several non-government organisations engaged in public healthcare work are supporting the legislation on the ground that too many young Americans are consuming too much sugar and are obese.

More than a quarter of California’s children are overweight, according to some NGOs. The American Academy of Pediatrics lists the consumption of carbonated beverages with sugar as a reason for obesity among children.

Most schools in the US have soft drink vending machines installed by soda manufacturers promoting their array of products.

The legislation, though, will not stop students from bringing their supplies of colas from home. Soft drinks will also be allowed to be sold after and before school events at senior schools.

A parallel legislation in California due to take effect on January 1, 2004, will ban sodas at elementary and middle schools.

But that is dependant on schools getting additional state funding for their nutrition programmes, money which is difficult to find in view of California’s financial crisis that has fuelled an effort to recall the state governor from office.

The California bill comes at a time when Coca-Cola in the US has been forced to pay hamburger giant Burger King more than $20 million to settle a dispute over rigged marketing tests.

Coca-Cola admitted in June that its employees manipulated the results of a test for Frozen Coke, one of its products, in order to win Burger King’s business. The charges of fraud had led to a federal grand jury probe.

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