How Junk-Food Companies Weasel Into Schools

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Buy something sugary, get something educational? Doesn't really seem fair and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) agrees. The food system watchdog group recently asked Sunny Delight president and CEO Billy Cyr to discontinue the company's Book Spree program, which encourages kids and their families to collect 20 labels from Sunny Delight beverages in exchange for 20 unspecified books.

"You shouldn't subject kids to a sugar spree to get them to enjoy a book spree," says Margo G. Wootan, Center for Science in the Public Interest's nutrition policy director. "Make no mistake—this is not an act of philanthropy on the part of Sunny Delight. These books aren't 'free,' as described. They come at both a financial cost and a cost to children's health."

A 16-ounce bottle of Sunny D Tangy Original has almost seven teaspoons of sugar, but is only 5 percent juice. Besides corn syrup, it includes the artificial sweeteners sucralose, acesulfame potassium, neotame, the controversial dyes Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and other ingredients.

More From Rodale News: 7 Hidden Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners

New Smart Snack standards being implemented in schools starting this academic year will bar the sales of sugary drinks like Sunny Delight in vending machines or elsewhere on campus. A separate rule requires school districts to implement policies for reducing junk-food marketing as part of their local wellness policies that are consistent with the Smart Snack standards.

Quite simply, if you can't sell it in schools, you shouldn't be able to market it in schools.

Pizza Hut and Amazon are two other companies that CSPI is after. Pizza Hut offers kids free pizzas in exchange for reading books, and Amazon is offering back-to-school savings on low-nutrition foods like macaroni and cheese, Country Time Lemonade, and Mini Oreos. "Think of all the good Amazon could do if it used its sophisticated targeting tools to put healthy choices in front of America's kids and families," Wootan says. "Instead, Amazon is marketing junk food. Doing that is tawdry, crass, and undermines children's health."


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