A resolution approved Wednesday will effectively bar many sodas and Gatorade products from vending machines in Montgomery County parks.
The proposal endorsed by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission sets caps for calorie and sodium content in snacks and drinks. Health advocates earlier this week had been concerned about proposed amendments that would’ve raised the limits from 250 to 290 calories and from 200 to 270 milligrams of sodium.
These adjustments would’ve allowed the stocking of 20-ounce bottles of Mountain Dew, Fanta and Minute Maid lemonade in the park system’s roughly 35 vending machines in Montgomery County.
However, M-NCPPC decided to reject the changes and stick with the earlier version of its plan.
“When kids and families visit parks and recreation facilities in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, they deserve the opportunity to choose healthy options so that they can maintain the benefits of physical activity as they refuel and rehydrate,” Shawn McIntosh, executive director of Sugar Free Kids Maryland, said in a prepared statement.
McIntosh’s group advocated for the resolution and fought the proposed amendments.
Beverage industry representatives had argued the proposed limits restricted customer choice and had the consequence of eliminating some locally manufactured products from vending machines.
In addition to setting caps, the resolution also establishes nutritional targets for at least half the vending machine products. To qualify as a “healthy food choice,” a product must contain fewer than 200 calories and derive less than 35 percent of the calories from fat, less than 10 percent from saturated fat and less than 35 percent from sugar. Healthy beverages should have fewer than 40 calories, with an exception for milk and certain juices, according to the resolution.
These health targets will apply to new and renewed vending machine contracts beginning in July.