Saturday, October 07, 2006

A test case for the Clinton Foundation / American Beverage Association agreement

We discussed earlier the mixed feelings that public health observers have expressed about the voluntary agreement announced by the Clinton Foundation and the American Beverage Association to remove soda from schools and replace them with healthier offerings.

I offered some cautious praise for the agreement, while others warned that it was just a public relations scam. Here is an interesting test case, illustrating the limits of the agreement.

The candy industry is crowing about the 3 Musketeers Slammers milk beverage from Bravo! Foods, which appears to meet the standards of the agreement for use in all schools, even vending machines in elementary schools.

Note also the Real seal, from the federal government's dairy checkoff program (the one that still seems to be withholding its annual report to Congress).

How can this sewn-together Frankensteinian multi-brand candy marketing vehicle possibly meet the new standards for elementary school children, you may ask? A look at the Nutrition Facts label reveals the answer: lowfat milk, carrageenan, cellulose gel, and Splenda artificial sweetener. With these ingredients, the calories per 8 oz. serving fall just under the required 150 [Note 10/08/2006: I missed that the package contains 2 servings! Correction in the comment section].

Problems include: using artificial fillers to mimic that mouth feel of fats rather than letting children become accustomed to the natural lowfat product, using artificial sweeteners rather than letting children become accustomed to the naturally perfect barely-sweet product, and misusing schools to market candy to elementary-age children.

I suspect the Clinton Foundation's reputation with sensible moderate pro-nutrition parents will be ruined if products like this are the ultimate fruit of the agreement with the American Beverage Association. If container-side advertising for 3 Musketeers is permitted under the Clinton agreement, it will push school districts that care about their children toward stricter standards. For example, a nice simple set of rules would be based on a short list of permitted products: water and 8 oz. containers of lowfat unsweetened milk or perhaps 100% fruit juice.

[Hat tip to the sharp and engaging weblog Weighty Matters, which I only recently started reading and will now add to my RSS subscriptions.]


Anonymous said...

If you notice on the label as well, there are actually 2 servings per container so in fact, the calories per "bottle" actually hit 280.

usfoodpolicy said...

Good point. Now I am truly confused. The Clinton Foundation American Beverage Association guidelines for elementary schools say: "Low fat and non fat regular and flavored milk* with up to 150 calories / 8 ounces." Dos this Slammers beverage meet those guidelines? If not, does it only meet the guidelines for a higher grade level? Or only meet earlier weaker guidelines that ABA had before the new announcement this summer? It will be great if somebody who understands this posts here.

Anonymous said...

To me, this product SO fails the Real Food test.

Anonymous said...

Comments don't seem to be on for the post after this.

In Canada in their submissions to the House of Commons, Big Food is always proud to report their internal standards committees and such.

I would imagine then, if their internal committees were as wonderfully caring as Big Food likes to paint them, if the deal (be it good or bad) they've voluntarily made with the AHA and Clinton will be extended, voluntarily of course, to their global markets.