In an unprecedented move, California Senator Bill Monning recently sponsored a proposal calling for required health warning labels on sugary drinks such as soda and juice. If the legislation is passed, California will be the first state in the nation to require such labels.
California has earned a reputation as a state committed to giving consumers the information they need to make educated health choices. In recent years, the state has implemented policies regulating the use of trans fat and requiring chain restaurants to include calorie information on menu items. In 2005, California also made the decision to ban soft drinks and junk food in schools. The state’s new bill proposal supports efforts to discourage consumption of sugary products that may contribute to health issues. Backed by both the California Medical Association and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, the bill is based on research that shows a clear link between sugary drinks and health problems like obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.
Dr. Harold Goldstein, Executive Director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy stated that sugary drinks, like soda, are the “number-one source of added sugar in the American diet.” In addition to obesity and type 2 diabetes, sugar has also been linked to other health concerns like hypertension and heart disease. Some health experts believe that sugar consumption may also contribute to increased risk of gout, stroke, and certain types of cancer. Americans currently consume an estimated 130 pounds of sugar each year.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the warning labels called for by the California state senator would work to educate consumers on the dangers of sugary beverages like soda. The label verbiage, developed by a panel of experts in nutrition and public health, would caution consumers that “Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.” The proposal calls for warning labels on all beverages with added sweeteners that have 75 or more calories per 12 ounces. The requirement would affect most sodas, sports drinks, iced teas, vitamin waters, and energy drinks.
Work done by Harvard University’s School of Public Health showed that two of three adults and one of three children in the United States struggle with weight issues. Treatments for obesity-related health concerns account for an annual spend of nearly $190 billion. Harvard’s public health experts refer to sugary drinks as a “major contributor to the obesity epidemic.” Recent research has shown that reducing consumption of sugary drinks can lead to more effective weight management among consumers with existing weight concerns.
Despite the known health risks, soda consumption in the United States has risen dramatically over the past few years. In 2006, U.S. beverage companies spent an estimated $3.2 billion to market their carbonated concoctions. Nearly half a billion dollars were spent on marketing aimed toward children. The American Beverage Association’s California branch has already taken measures to speak out against Monning’s proposal.
Despite the push back, the California lawmaker’s call for warning labels on sugar-laden beverages like soda is a step in the right direction. In a recent press release, Monning stated that the proposed legislation would work to give California consumers “essential information they need to make healthier choices.”
By Katie Bloomstrom