Connecticut Ed Committee Endorses Bill to Limit Sugary Drinks

(Photo: Marlith, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Marlith, Creative Commons)

The Connecticut General Assembly's education committee has approved a bill that will curtail sugary drinks in state-funded child care institutions.

A ranking member of the education committee, Sen. Toni Boucher (R-Wilton), remarked that drinks with added sugars and artificial sweeteners could affect young people for the rest of their lives.

"We've reached a point in our society where it is so important for us to approach this. What a young child ingests will be really telling for their future health."

The Hartford Courant's Alban Murtishi points out that a 2011 survey conducted by Every Smile Counts found that about one-third of the state's kids in kindergarten and third grade are obese or overweight. In the same year, another body of research from the Trust for American's Health found that Connecticut ranked fifth in the US for childhood obesity rates.

Only one lawmaker voted against the bill, and that was Rep. Pam Staneski (R-Milford).

Executive Director of the Connecticut Alliance of YMCAs, John Cattelan, pointed out that obesity creates more issues for a child than just health-related problems.

"When one-third of kids suffer from obesity in the state, you know you have an epidemic. These kids are more likely to be bullied, suffer from depression and do poorly in school," Cattelan said.

Experts in the field of childhood obesity have been pushing for the removal of sugary drinks, but legislators could not reach an agreement on specific beverages. When whole milk was incorporated in the list as part of a similar bill several years ago, the measure was dropped. And this year when chocolate milk was discussed as a candidate for removal, the suggestion riled the Northeast Dairy Foods Association.

State Rep. Tim LeGeyt (R-Avon)) is worried that the bill will require private child care centers to be regulated by these policies as well. He added:

"There could be some groups that use school property that they pay for and yet would be told to follow these rules … When I look at bills such as this that reach a little too far into what I think is citizens private interests, then I have to have some line to draw."

WTNH-TV's Noelle Gardner writes that the bill would have the power to stop early childhood care centers, along with group child-care homes, from serving their children sugary or artificially sweetened drinks. The rule would also affect elementary after-school programs that require students to be active for at least 20 continuous minutes a day.

Cattelan added that studies have shown that children who are physically active when they are younger remain active throughout their lives. And Connecticut Sen. Gary Winfield (D-District 10) noted that children should be given the healthiest alternatives possible in their schools.

The education committee also approved a bill that would require elementary children to have a minimum of 20 minutes of physical activity each day, but the measure is still being discussed.

The UK's Daily Star has revealed the results of a study showing that 41 million kids under five-years-old are overweight worldwide. These statistics have led the World Health Organization to call for increased regulations, says Jackie Pasaol, reporting for Parent Herald.

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