Maryland Howard County Executive Ken Ulman recently signed an executive order banning the sale of high-sugar drinks in parks, libraries and other county properties, and at county-sponsored events, according to Pam Gilbert, senior manager, government affairs at the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA).
Under the order, all beverages procured, served or sold by county departments must meet the following standards:
• Sweetened beverages to have fewer than 5 calories per serving.
• Fruit and vegetable beverages to contain 100 percent juice with fewer than 120 calories in 8-ounce servings or less.
• Milk and soy options to be unflavored, low-fat or nonfat and contain less than 22 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving or be limited to 8 ounces.
• Drinks with artificial sweeteners be limited to one-quarter of the total beverage offerings.
Gilbert reports that the county wants the transition to begin immediately, though only to "the extent possible under existing contracts." It also requires the county health department to review the beverage standards at least every three years. The ban does not apply to county schools, although the Board of Education is revising the school system's wellness policy to "reflect the commitment to wellness throughout the county." The ban drew criticism from the beverage industry, which argues that public officials should allow consumers to make choices while emphasizing balanced diets and exercise, and from soda-drinking citizens.