- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2006

Leading food manufacturers said yesterday they have joined former President Bill Clinton’s efforts to cut the amount of fat and sugar in snacks sold in the nation’s schools.

Campbell Soup Co., Kraft Foods Inc., Mars Inc., Group Danone SA and PepsiCo Inc. have signed on with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint initiative started last year by Mr. Clinton and the American Heart Association, to make snacks in schools healthier.

The voluntary agreement establishes guidelines for the allowable amounts of fat, sugar and calories in products that are sold to schools throughout the country.

Yesterday’s agreement is the latest effort by Mr. Clinton to slow the rising rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. Foods covered under the agreement will not be limited to vending-machine products and range from fruits and vegetables to soups and yogurt, chips, chocolate, crackers, ice cream and granola bars.

“What we are setting in motion with these guidelines will dramatically change the kind of food that children have access to at school,” Mr. Clinton said.

The American Heart Association estimates that about 33 percent of all U.S. boys and 29 percent of girls between ages 6 and 11 are considered overweight or at risk for being overweight.

The guidelines, based on recommendations from Food and Drug Administration scientists, limit the percentage of sugar in a product to 25 percent based on the product’s weight and do not allow foods to acquire more than 35 percent of their calories from fat and no more than 10 percent from saturated fat. Foods that fall under the guidelines are capped at 100 calories.

The guidelines also specify that all foods must be trans-fat free and most cannot contain more than 230 milligrams of sodium.

The agreement comes five months after Mr. Clinton and the American Heart Association brokered a deal with beverage industry leaders to phase out the sale of certain soda products in the nation’s elementary school. That deal included soft drink giants Pepsi and Coca-Cola.

The deal with the alliance may be a pre-emptive move to avoid future litigation against the industry, said John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University.

A lawsuit brought against major bottlers, including Pepsico and Coca-Cola, for selling their products in schools was scuttled once the bottlers agreed to Mr. Clinton’s proposal to stop selling certain soft drinks in elementary schools.

“Certainly defusing possible legal situations that may pop up is a motivation for the food manufacturers,” Mr. Banzhaf said. “This agreement makes them look good while pushing them to do what they would have to eventually do anyway.”

Mr. Banzhaf is the executive director for Action on Smoking and Health, a Washington-based organization that promotes healthy lifestyles and a consultant lawyer on the landmark tobacco-settlement lawsuit.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation said the snack companies received no assurances that they would be protected against lawsuits by agreeing to the guidelines.

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