CHICAGO - Soft-drink machines in government buildings in Chicago and in San Antonio, Texas, will carry calorie information, and city workers will be able to win cash in a health competition paid for by Coca-Cola and other beverage giants under a plan unveiled Monday.
Other places are giving the boot to soda machines or taxing sugary drinks, but Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that calorie-count machines are a better approach to the health issue because they emphasize personal responsibility.
City workers in Chicago and San Antonio will compete for a $5 million grant from the American Beverage Association to see which workforce is healthier. The nationwide soda-lobbying group also will pay $1,000 to individual workers who meet as-yet unspecified health-care goals.
The group said that soda-vending machines in the two cities' municipal buildings will be among the first in the country to get calorie-count displays next year before the program is rolled out nationwide.
New York City adopted a rule last month barring many types of businesses from selling sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces.
Appearing Monday at Chicago City Hall with representative of soda-manufacturing companies, Emanuel said he doesn't want to pursue serving-size limits on soda like in New York or to approve a proposed tax on sugary drinks.
Emanuel said the program isn't a payoff from the cola industry to avoid more punitive measures. "I believe firmly in personal responsibility," the mayor said. "If you basically put aside personal responsibility, you're missing the core ingredient for improving health outcomes."
Soda-vending machines in city government buildings will sport new labels on selection buttons that show how many calories are in each drink. The trade association said that the Calories Count Vending Program also includes signage reminding consumers to think about calories and increasing the availability of lower-calorie selections.
Emanuel said the exact parameters of the health competition were still being worked out, but he mentioned losing weight and quitting smoking as likely benchmarks that could earn a worker money.
The American Beverage Association said the new program complements previous initiatives, such as putting new calorie labels on beverage packaging and removing full-calorie soft drinks from schools. Sugary drinks have been a focus in the country's debate over rising obesity rates among adults and children.