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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
New York schools to ban sweet sales
Sweets will no longer be allowed in vending machines

Fears over childhood obesity have prompted a ban on the sale of sweets and fizzy drinks in New York schools.

From September, vending machines in the city's state-run schools will no longer be able to sell food and drink that are considered to be unhealthy and fattening.

New York, which has the biggest school system in the United States, with over a million pupils, is also planning to provide a healthier diet in its school canteens.

School menus will be expected to have more low-salt and low-fat meals, designed to encourage pupils to develop healthier eating habits.

Instead of doughnuts, cookies and fizzy drinks, machines will be expected to sell healthier alternatives, such as fruit juices, bottles of water or low-fat products.

Vending machines have become part of the funding system for schools, providing millions of dollars towards expenses such as sports equipment.

Obesity epidemic

But these will now have to provide a different kind of snack, as city officials respond to what has been described as an "epidemic" of childhood obesity.

The healthy-eating proposals, under the title, Prohibiting Sale of Minimally Nutritious Foods and Beverages at Public Schools, are an attempt to develop a more integrated approach to improving diet.

There have already been moves against selling fizzy drinks and sweets in schools, in both the United States and the United Kingdom - with the aim of improving behaviour as well as children's health.

But the adoption of such a stance in New York, where the education department has an annual budget of $12bn, will be seen as a significant step.

Last year in the United Kingdom, a report claimed that three-quarters of the population could be overweight within the next 10 to 15 years - and that obesity will overtake smoking as the biggest preventable killer.

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