By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – In a surprising decision the three largest soft drink companies in Brazil have announced that starting in August they will no longer distribute soft drinks at cafeterias and snack bars in schools which cater to children twelve years old and younger.
“Obesity is a complex problem caused by many factors, and beverage companies recognize their role in being part of a solution,” said a joint statement released by Coca-Cola Brazil, Ambev and PepsiCo Brazil on Wednesday, June 22nd.
According to the press release the three beverage companies will only sell mineral water, juice with one hundred percent fruit, coconut water and dairy-based drinks that meet specific nutritional criteria. The companies said that the new beverage portfolio for these schools follow the international beverage association guidelines.
The statement acknowledges that children under twelve are not yet mature enough to make consumer decisions. “Coca-Cola Brazil, Ambev and PepsiCo Brazil understand that they must help parents or guardians to shape an environment in schools to facilitate more appropriate choices for school children as well as stimulate hydration and nutrition, contributing to a more balanced diet,” concluded the statement.
The choice of the portfolio in Brazil, according to the beverage giants was based on conversations with public health experts, food and nutrition advocates, as well as professionals and institutions linked to children’s rights. The companies will also promote actions to raise awareness of other outlets, such as supermarkets, inviting all distributors to join the initiative.
A study conducted last year by the Brazilian government’s Human Rights Secretary found that 33.5 percent of children aged 5 to 9 years old are overweight.