California Passes Toughest School Nutritional Standards in U.S.

I told you about a CDC report that showed how junk food so easily gets into the hands of your children thanks to vending machines parked conveniently at their schools. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar signed landmark legislation that will enforce the toughest nutritional guidelines for public schools in the nation.

The three bills signed into law:

  • SB12 sets nutritional standards that would limit the calories and sugar content kids consume.
  • SB965 extends an existing ban on selling carbonated drinks to high schools.
  • SB281 spends some $18 million on fruits and vegetables for school breakfast programs.

Schwarzeneggar has good reason to be concerned: San Diego and Los Angeles led a list of urban areas across the nation selling the most junk food through vending machines in their school districts.

As you can imagine, the American Beverage Association blasted the new laws, saying the obesity epidemic won’t be solved by “unnecessary restrictions,” although that very same group recommended limiting the availability of soft drinks in elementary schools last month. In fact, the caffeine content in soft drinks has recently been compared to nicotine in cigarettes, another reason young children don’t need them.

Before you get too excited, however, here’s three very important caveats to consider:

  • Those new laws on soft drinks won’t go into effect until 2009, well into Schwarzeneggar’s second term (if re-elected) as governor.
  • The percentages of sugar and fats described in these new laws reach the threshold of banned junk foods and soft drinks anyway.
  • Worthless electrolyte sports drinks, meaning Gatorade, are allowed.

This could be a great first step toward taking junk foods and soft drinks out of our schools. Or not…

San Francisco Chronicle September 16, 2005