In This Issue


Big Cola’s Latest PR Stunt


Bill Clinton Triangulates the War on Fat


How Bill Sealed the Soda Deal


Did the American Heart Association Sell Out the Grassroots?


How to Renegotiate Your School Soda Contract


Host a Book Talk for Appetite for Profit

Quote, Unquote

"We can also strengthen our industry's ability to counter the perception by our critics that some of our products don't fit into a balanced diet. It's a perception that is simply not true."


– Don Knauss, president, Coca-Cola North America, on the latest voluntary school beverage guidelines


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May 2006


Special Coverage of School Soda Deal with Clinton Foundation

Editor’s note: This month, we devote the entire issue to the latest PR stunt by the soda industry. Last August, Informed Eating exposed the sham of a school policy announced by the American Beverage Association. Now Big Cola is trying once again to convince us that they really do care. But this time, they had help from two major players: former President Clinton and the American Heart Association. But the headlines didn’t tell the real story behind the deal, which is this: just like last year’s school "policy" from industry, this pact is completely voluntary and unenforceable.

In the interest of full disclosure, this move made me particularly incensed because for several months prior, I had been part of a team of public health groups and attorneys who were in private negotiation with lawyers from the American Beverage Association, Coca-Coca, and PepsiCo. From these meetings—operating under the threat of litigation being planned in Massachusetts—we got close to an agreement that was strikingly similar to the one announced with Bill Clinton. What a brilliant strategy by the soda companies, telling us they were bargaining in good faith, all the while planning another deal behind our backs. Apparently, Coke and Pepsi were shopping around for the best PR opportunity; it looks much better to have a former president at your side than a bunch of lawyers. Moreover, if soda industry representatives deliberately deceived our team to further their own ends, why should we believe their promises to the Clinton Foundation?

If we needed any more evidence that the beverage companies cannot be trusted, consider this: for Coca-Cola, this is the third time the company has “pledged its support” for bogus voluntary school guidelines with zero impact. The first attempt was in 2003 with its “Model Guidelines for School Beverage Partnerships” and the second time around was last August as part of the American Beverage Association’s PR stunt. So what’s different now? Has this become an annual event? How often can the public be fooled?

Most importantly, this so-called agreement—which was negotiated without any input from grassroots advocates—could undermine the massive public health effort currently underway in schools all across the nation. In light of the local impact, Informed Eating is publishing for the first time a guide to renegotiating soda contracts in schools. Many thanks to contract attorney Debora Pinkas of the Public Health Law Program (based in Oakland, California) for this excellent analysis. Be sure to share this invaluable resource with parents and others currently trying to put strong school wellness policies in place.

Despite the mainstream news accounts, the fight to rid schools of unhealthy soft drinks is far from over. Please pass this special issue along to school-based advocates (and anyone else who cares about children’s health) to help spread the truth. Thank you!

Big Cola’s Latest PR Stunt
By Michele Simon, posted to, May 5, 2006

The headlines certainly sound impressive: “Companies pulling sodas out of school” claimed the Associated Press; “Bottlers agree to a school ban on sweet drinks” said the New York Times.” These and hundreds of other news stories around the nation this week gave the impression that the beverage industry had an epiphany and magically, all soda will disappear from schools forever. Only one problem: nothing could be further from the truth. On Wednesday, Big Cola announced yet another voluntary school sales policy, this time, one brokered by the Clinton Foundation (the former president has made childhood obesity one of his post-presidency causes) and the American Heart Association.

Read full commentary:

Bill Clinton Triangulates the War on Fat

While most of the news accounts missed the mark, in contrast, this article from Slate hits the nail on the head in describing how Clinton operates. State’s William Saletan writes:

According to the Public Health Advocacy Institute, which threatened for months to sue the soda companies, their "agreement with the Clinton Foundation … comes after sustained pressure from potential litigation and negotiations with public health groups and their lawyers." In other words, the lefties did the dirty work so Clinton could score the winning bucket.

Read full article:

How Bill Sealed the Soda Deal

This article from Time magazine dug deeper than most in gathering certain details about the negotiations, which were apparently handled by Clinton’s former advisor, Ira Magaziner. In addition to a mention of the Center for Informed Food Choices, the article contains good quotes from Marion Nestle questioning the deal. Time’s Jeffrey Kluger writes:

The plan does have its detractors, who see it as shot through with loopholes, not least because soda represents less than half of school vending-machine sales, with fatty and sugary snacks making up the rest. And since school administrators are hardly likely to conduct beverage pat-downs, nothing will prevent kids from bringing sodas to school or ducking out to a 7-Eleven for a midday sugar shot. "The soda agreement looks like a step in the right direction," says Marion Nestle, nutrition expert at New York University, "but I can't help being skeptical."

The plan's slow rollout is raising eyebrows. The Clintonites and the American Heart Association seem to trust the companies when they say they need time to renegotiate their beverage contracts with the schools and retrofit their vending machines, but for some people that doesn't wash. "They have to be kidding, no?" asks New York University's Nestle. "Implementation by 2010? Today's kids will be grown up by then. I read this as a ploy to keep the vending machines in the schools at any cost."

TIME, May 15, 2006

Did the American Heart Association Sell Out the Grassroots?

While Bill Clinton has been enjoying the spotlight, the role of the American Heart Association and what that organization traded off is just starting to emerge. Informed Eating has learned from a few local advocates that the national office has called off its state affiliates from supporting school nutrition bills. In other words, it appears that in exchange for this lame voluntary deal, the American Heart Association agreed to stop lobbying for stronger and enforceable legislation. If so, this could have a serious adverse impact on school nutrition. If you are in a state where a local AHA affiliate has told you they can no longer support your legislation, or know anything about this development, please contact us (confidentially if you prefer) at: or (510) 465-0322. Informed Eating will continue to follow this story to get at the truth.

How to Renegotiate Your School Soda Contract
By Debora Pinkas (special to Informed Eating)

The “School Beverage Policy” recently announced by the nation’s largest soft drink manufacturers presents schools across the country with an unprecedented opportunity to renegotiate their soda contracts and stop selling sodas and other non nutritious beverages such as diet sodas and sports drinks to their students.

Why do contracts matter so much? Because contracts create a private body of law between the parties to the contract where one would not otherwise exist. This gives each party the legal right to enforce the obligations and restrictions to which the other party has agreed. As applied to school beverage agreements, contracts matter because they are the only available means by which a school can turn the soda industry’s voluntary policy into one that is mandatory as to the beverage industry and legally enforceable as to the school.

Read full article:

Host a Book Talk for Appetite for Profit

CIFC’s director, Michele Simon will be hitting the road this fall to promote her first book, Appetite for Profit: Fighting Corporate Control and Spin in the Nutrition Wars. If you would like to host a book talk in your area, please contact her at: or (510) 465-0322. To help fund the tour, please make a tax-deductible donation here. Thank you!

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The Center for Informed Food Choices is a nonprofit organization that advocates for a whole foods, plant-based diet and educates about the politics of food.

CIFC is proud to make Informed Eating available as a free public service. Unlike industry publications, it is not underwritten by corporate sponsors. We would greatly appreciate your support for this newsletter and our other important policy work. For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit or call (510) 465-0322.

Informed Eating is written and edited by Michele Simon. You may contact her at Michele Simon is available for lectures and workshops in your community and can speak on a variety of food policy topics. For more information, visit:


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