New Bill Hopes To Put Warning Labels On Sugary Drinks

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By: Mark Smeltzer/ Access Sacramento

Sugary drinks like soda have long been linked to a myriad of health issues. Diabetes alone can lead to amputations, heart disease, blindness, and nerve damage. And with an estimated 14 percent of Californians now suffering from this disease, some of the state’s lawmakers have decided to take on the drinks themselves. A simple warning label on these beverages, according to them, is the way of the future, and it turns out that an overwhelming number of voters in the Golden State agree, even as opponents in the beverage industry hold firm in their position.

Despite significant pushback from beverage manufacturers last year, Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) has managed to introduce a bill that would require most sugar-sweetened beverages sold in the state to warn of the risks linked to their consumption. The proposed warning would read: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.” Supporters see the warning label as a game changer in the fight against obesity and diabetes. Opponents still view it as arbitrary and vague.

“Given the rock solid scientific evidence showing the dangers of sugary beverages, the state of California has a responsibility to inform consumers about products proven to be harmful to the public’s health,” insisted Monning.

It’s not just the Senate Majority Leader who would like to implement these changes. With the support of 74 percent of voting Californians and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, it seems that the passing of SB 203 is within reach. There is still skepticism, however, among prominent politicians and representatives in the industry.

The most common argument against the new label is that it targets sodas, sweet teas, sports drinks, and energy drinks, while not addressing a long list of foods and drinks that also contribute to serious health problems. The response to that accusation, however, seems to be that since those drinks being targeted are consumed in massive quantities, it’s only natural that they have their own warning label.

Senate Bill 203 still has to run the gauntlet that is the California State Legislature. Not to mention intense lobbying from the industry itself, which would like to see a repeat of the defeat suffered by last year’s version of the bill. But advocates for what is being called the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act remain not only hopeful, but persistent. And it’s their persistence that might finally pay off this year to do what they see as a duty to the consumers in their state.

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