First Lady pushes proposal to ban junk food ads in school

First Lady Michelle Obama proposed new rules Tuesday, February 25, 2014, that would limit the types of foods and beverages that can be advertised in schools. (Photo credit: Pool via CNN)

First Lady Michelle Obama proposed new rules Tuesday, February 25, 2014, that would limit the types of foods and beverages that can be advertised in schools. (Photo credit: Pool via CNN)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — New rules first lady Michelle Obama proposed on Tuesday would limit the types of foods and beverages that can be advertised in schools.

Under the suggested federal regulations, companies would no longer be permitted to use logos of high calorie products on cups, vending machines or posters, a common sight in schools around the nation.

“We’ll be eliminating advertisements for unhealthy food and beverages in our schools. Because I think we can all agree that our classrooms should be healthy places where our kids are not bombarded with ads for junk food,” the first lady said at an event in the White House East Room.

Advertising isn’t going away completely — companies would still be allowed to advertise their low-calorie or healthy products to students. Schools will also be able to determine for themselves what types of marketing would be permissible in their facilities. But the days of Coca-Cola or Pepsi using their flagship logos on scoreboards or gymnasium walls may be coming to an end.

Those products are already being phased out in schools, and officials characterized the announcement as a way to bring marketing in hallways and football fields in line with new regulations for healthier school meals.

“Schools aren’t going to market beverages they’re not selling,” said Sam Kass, the White House chef who also acts as the White House senior nutrition policy adviser.

The proposed guidelines will come as part of the fourth anniversary of the first lady’s Let’s Move initiative, which seeks to combat childhood obesity by promoting healthy food choices and exercise.

Mrs. Obama also unveiled programs offering extended free school lunch programs to 9 million students in 22,000 different schools.

The bulk of advertising in schools comes from drink companies, and on Tuesday the association that represents firms like Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper said it supported the new regulations.

“Mrs. Obama’s efforts to continue to strengthen school wellness make sense for the well-being of our schoolchildren,” said Susan Neely, the president of the American Beverage Association, in a statement.

“We look forward to working with the USDA on their proposed rule to align food and beverage signage in schools with the new regulations as the next logical next step.”

The Let’s Move program, launched in 2010, has been one of the first lady’s signature platforms. It’s come under some criticism from some conservatives who use her nutrition and exercise initiatives as evidence of a “nanny state.”

Kass said on Tuesday the new initiative allowed schools to control which marketing could remain, but maintained the federal government has a responsibility to ensure kids are getting healthy messages.

Officials said the proposed regulations would undergo a USDA-facilitated comment period, which would determine how much time schools get to remove or replace existing signage for products that aren’t deemed healthy.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, said the initiative puts more control in the hands of parents.

“It’s very important that parents are able to determine, to the greatest extent possible, what their kids are exposed to,” he told CNN. “You can do that in your home – that’s your responsibility and that’s your right. As schools we need to say what is it that every kid should be exposed to and protected from?”

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