Last week, three of the nation’s largest soft drink companies committed themselves to the fight against obesity. Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper have been facing political pressure for over a decade to join in the nationwide effort to reduce calorie consumption. In the past few years, we have seen some policymakers attempts to slash Americans’ caloric intake by taking aim at soft drink consumption. This includes New York City’s notorious fight to ban jumbo-sized sugary drinks in certain venues. While local regulations have achieved success in the past, this most recent pledge signifies both a major win for healthy lobbyists, and recognition of recent shifts in consumer preferences.

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Soda consumption has become a sort of American pastime, associated with movies, sporting events, dining out, and other forms of entertainment. Unfortunately, this pastime has contributed to skyrocketing obesity rates, with reports ball-parking some American’s soda consumption at 50% of an individual’s caloric intake. Given the statistics, these three soft-drink juggernauts have entered into a rare, voluntary, pledge to steer consumers toward healthier options.

The agreement was reached between the American Beverage Association and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the American Heart Association and endorsed by former President Bill Clinton. Under the pledge, soft drink companies will devote more marketing and development to low and no calorie beverage. Additionally, calorie counts will be posted on vending machines in an effort to make the consumer more aware of his or her nutritional choices.

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Although the pledge is certainly a step in the right direction, critics note that the agreement is completely voluntary and imposes no penalty on the companies for failure to comply. Further, the push to post calorie counts on vending machines has received considerable push back. With roughly one-third of the adult population and one-fifth of the childhood population in the United States qualifying as obese—according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention—this agreement has the potential to both raise awareness and lower obesity rates in the coming decades.

Jacqueline Meyers

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