Food Safety

Bill Would Require Warning Label on Sodas

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Fri, Feb 14, 2014 at 1:23 PM
  • Photo courtesy of Flickr/Vox Efx
  • Coke
Sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks sold in California would be required to carry a warning label under a new bill introduced in Sacramento Thursday.

The label would warn would-be imbibers of the risks of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay should they proceed.

It's an ironic twist of fate for a concoction whose existence began as a "health tonic."

A growing body of scientific research has identified sugary drinks as the biggest contributors to added empty calories in the American diet and thus to obesity in the U.S. population.

More than a third of all U.S. adults and nearly 17 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The beverage industry is fighting the bill, of course.

"It is misleading to suggest that soft drink consumption is uniquely responsible for weight gain. In fact, only 4 percent of calories in the average American diet are derived directly from soda," CalBev, the California arm of the American Beverage Association, said in a statement on Thursday.

While that may be true, food calories also contain items of nutritional value, unlike soda.

State Sen. Bill Monning sponsored the warning label bill and unsuccessfully tried to push a state tax on sugary drinks last year. (The beverage industry cried "nanny-state.")

Monning said his labeling bill is akin to health warnings on tobacco and alcohol products and focuses on health risks that a broad body of science has clearly linked to sugary drinks. There's no tax, there's no size limit - there's just a warning label that you can choose to ignore.

"When the science is this conclusive, the state of California has a responsibility to take steps to protect consumers," he told Reuters. He said he anticipates strong support from the Legislature.

Under the bill, all beverage containers with added sweeteners that have 75 calories or more per 12 ounces would be required to carry a label that reads: "State of California Safety Warning: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay." Pretty straightforward, right? But oh, the throwdown that is about to ensue!

The label text was developed by a national panel of nutrition and public health experts.

The label warning requirement would apply to any sugar-sweetened sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, "vitamin water" and iced teas. U.S. soda consumption has risen sharply in recent decades, as has the understanding of its negative health effects.

Drinking just one soda a day increases an adult's likelihood of being overweight by 27 percent and a child's by 55 percent. Just a soda or two a day increases the risk of diabetes by 26 percent, according to research.

Forget the text - what we'd really like to see are scary graphics like they have on packs of cigarettes. We're thinking Cartman after a Cheesy Poofs binge. 

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