Bill would require warning labels on soda

Sodas and sugary drinks sold in California would have to bear a label warning consumers of health risks, under a bill introduced Thursday in the state Senate.

sodaSB 1000 by state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, would require all containers of beverages with added sweeteners of 75 or more calories per 12 ounces to bear this label: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

“When the science is this conclusive, the state of California has a responsibility to take steps to protect consumers,” Monning said in a news release. “As with tobacco and alcohol warnings, this legislation will give Californians essential information they need to make healthier choices.”

Dr. Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in Monning’s news release that there’s “clear and conclusive” scientific evidence that soda and sugary drinks are major contributors to these harms. “These diseases cost California billions of dollars in health care and lost productivity every year. When any product causes this much harm, it is time to take action.”

Lots more, after the jump…

Sugary drinks are responsible for 43 percent of the added calories in the American diet over the last 30 years, according to Monning’s office; drinking just one soda a day increases an adult’s likelihood of being overweight by 27 percent and a child’s by 55 percent. Research shows that a soda or two a day increases risk of diabetes by 26 percent.

Dr. Ashby Wolfe of the California Medical Association, another sponsor of SB 1000, said doctors are “desperate to break the cycle of diabetes and obesity we see in our offices every day.”

“Americans drink more than 45 gallons of sugary beverages a year. These drinks have become a major part of the American diet, and we drink them without a second thought to the damage they do to our health,” Wolfe said. “Consumers have a right to know about the unique health problems associated with soda and other sugary drinks.”

The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California and the California Black Health Network are also co-sponsors, as those communities are the largest consumers of such drinks.

CalBev, the state’s non-alcoholic beverage industry trade group, issued a statement indicating the bill is misguided.

“We agree that obesity is a serious and complex issue. However, it is misleading to suggest that soft drink consumption is uniquely responsible for weight gain,” the group said. “In fact, only 4 percent of calories in the average American diet are derived directly from soda. According to government data, foods, not beverages, are the top source of sugars in the American diet.”

But Daniel Zingale, senior vice president at The California Endowment, issued a statement putting the industry on notice.

“Big Soda be warned. The verdict is in,” Zingale said. “Overwhelming science shows that soda and junk drinks are the single largest contributors to the obesity crisis. Our state has a responsibility to inform its citizens about the serious health harms that come from these products. It’s hard to push back against Big Soda and the millions they spend to target young people and vulnerable communities across California. But this label is a start to help consumers make the best choices, for themselves and their families. Warning labels on cigarettes were started to push back on Big Tobacco and help Americans understand the health risks of smoking. Warning labels on junk drinks will do the same.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    How about a warning on everything:

    Warning: Stupidity can be hazardous to your health.

  • Marga

    I actually think it’s a good idea, in particular if the bill targets ALL beverages with added sugar. Indeed, I’d go further and have it also target beverages that have natural sugars but not a significant amount of vitamins/nutrients (e.g. apple juice).

    Sure, most adults know perfectly well that drinking soda has bad consequences – but not all kids do. And kids are big consumers of sugary drinks. You can teach them to distinguish between the bad and not so bad, but truth be told, they are not always going to look at the ingredient list. This would be a quick way for them to know what drinks to avoid.