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Case Studies: Eliminating Electrolyte Replacement Beverages in California Public Schools

2009 | Download

In 2005, California passed some of the most stringent state legislation in the nation that set limits on the types of competitive foods and beverages that could be sold a la carte outside of the federally reimbursable school meal program. Since then, public school districts throughout the state have worked to implement these nutrition standards, which banned products like soda, regular chips, donuts and French fries.

“The legislation got rid of the worst of the worst of these products,” said Peggy Agron, Chief of California Project LEAN (Leaders Encouraging Activity and Nutrition). “But the legislation still allows products that are not necessarily healthy or needed while at school.”

Read the case studies of California school districts working to prohibit electrolyte replacement beverages in their schools.

A loophole in California’s legislation allows electrolyte replacement beverages, a type of sugar-sweetened beverage commonly referred to as sports drinks, to be sold in public middle and high schools. Designed to be consumed only after long periods of physical activity, students do not need to consume electrolyte replacement beverages during the school day. A popular 20-ounce sports drink, for example, includes 8 teaspoons of sugar and 130 calories. For children, each extra can or glass of a sugar-sweetened beverage consumed per day can increase their chance of becoming obese by as much as 60 percent.

In California, the prevalence of overweight and obesity is higher among adolescents who drink sugar-sweetened beverages than those who do not. A recent study looking at the impact of competitive food and beverage standards found that eight of the top 10 beverages offered for sale at California public schools were electrolyte replacement beverages.

To address the prevalence of these beverages and the high rates of childhood obesity, in 2010, Senator Alex Padilla authored and Governor Schwarzenegger sponsored Senate Bill 1255, which would have prohibited public schools from selling electrolyte replacement beverages in middle and high schools during the school day and 30 minutes before and after school. The bill died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Despite this setback, many school districts are not waiting for state legislation to pass before they prohibit electrolyte replacement beverages in all their schools. Project LEAN highlights a few of these districts: Oakland Unified School District, San Francisco Unified School District, and Lemon Grove School District.