Duluth hospital to end sales of sugar-sweetened beveragesSt. Luke’s hospital is eliminating the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages from all of its properties, its hospitality director said.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
St. Luke’s hospital is eliminating the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages from all of its properties, its hospitality director said.
It’s the first hospital in the state to make the move, said Jamie Harvie of the Duluth-based Institute for a Sustainable Future, an advocate of reducing consumption of sugary beverages to reduce obesity.
“What we’re learning from data that’s out there is that sugar-sweetened beverages are a significant contributor to obesity,” said Mark Branovan, director of hospitality at St. Luke’s.
St. Luke’s administrators decided on Sept. 17 to stop selling the products, Branovan said, but the ban hasn’t been fully implemented.
“We’re shooting for Nov. 1,” Branovan said. “It’s a short transition period. We have to run the product out. … We have to bring new selections in and equipment in. We also have some patient menus that have Coca Cola and Sprite. We have to reprint some of our menus.”
The ban applies to every clinic across the St. Luke’s system as well as its main campus in Duluth, Branovan said.
Essentia Health hasn’t followed suit.
“At this point, there is no decision to remove sugar-sweetened beverages,” said John Vidmar, Essentia’s director of nutrition services. “It is under consideration.”
However, Essentia is focusing on helping people make healthier lifestyle choices in general, Vidmar said.
While he said he applauded the St. Luke’s decision, Vidmar added that the move was “somewhat symbolic” and took away choices. “It doesn’t cover the entire spectrum,” he said.
But the St. Luke’s ban doesn’t prevent patients’ families or employees from bringing in their own sugar-sweetened beverages, Branovan said. “We are not saying we are trying to affect your choice of what to drink. We’re choosing not to sell it.”
Harvie, who spearheaded a challenge last month to Minnesota hospitals that included asking them to eliminate sale of sugar-sweetened beverages, greeted the news.
“We should be proud that our hospital is a leader in the state to be the first to announce this very important policy,” Harvie said Tuesday.
The Commons Health Hospital Challenge, supported by the Minnesota chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups, called on hospitals to eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages, adopt steps to encourage breast-feeding and achieve at least a 20 percent level of locally produced food by 2020.
St. Luke’s is taking a leadership role by eliminating the beverage sales, Harvie said.
“Tackling the obesity crisis is not the sole responsibility of our hospitals, but if our hospitals can’t lead, who will?” he said.
In a statement to its employees, St. Luke’s cited a study finding that sugar-sweetened beverages accounted for an estimated 20 percent to 40 percent of all weight gained by Americans between 1997 and 2007.
“While we acknowledge that beverage consumption is not the only factor impacting obesity, reducing its consumption is a fairly easy way for people to reverse its impact,” the statement said.
Familiar products still will be available at St. Luke’s, Branovan said. That includes Diet Coke, already the hospital’s best-seller by such a wide margin that it exceeds the sales of the No. 2, 3 and 4 choices combined.
All-natural, no-sugar-added juices, Diet Snapple and flavored seltzer waters are being added to the mix, he said.
Nor is St. Luke’s removing all sugar from its offerings. You’ll still be able to buy cookies, for example.
“We could take away everything that is not healthy,” Branovan said. “We’re not that radical.”