In an effort to combat obesity in Massachusetts, where 1 in 4 fourth graders is overweight, the state's Public Health Council has approved a proposal to require public schools to improve the quality of foods it serves to children in vending machines, snack bars, and a la carte cafeteria areas.
The new rules do not apply to the standard cafeteria fare because that food is regulated by the federal government and is not subject to state modifications.
The new standards will take effect for the 2012-2013 school year. Flavored milk, which was also banned as part of the new regulations, will still be offered until August of 2013 so that schools can prepare non-sugary ways to get children to drink milk.
At the core of the new standards is the elimination of sugary beverages, which have been identified as a prime culprit in the obesity epidemic.
Studies have linked even moderate consumption of soft drinks to substantially elevated risk of heart disease and diabetes. Harvard researchers have shown, for instance, that a 20-ounce soft drink contains the equivalent of 17 teaspoons of sugar.
(image via: http://www.nytimes.com/)