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Sugary drinks warning label bill passes out of Senate appropriations committee and heads to Senate floor



May 28, 2014
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Public Health 

A bill sponsored by the California Medical Association (CMA) that would place health warning labels on soft drinks and other sugary drinks passed out of the state Senate Appropriations Committee on a 5 to 2 vote and is headed to the Senate floor for a vote, perhaps as early as today.


The bill, sponsored by a coalition that includes CMA, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, the California Black Health Network and the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, would require that a simple warning be placed on the front of all beverage containers with added sweeteners that have 75 or more calories per 12 ounces. The label, developed by a panel of national nutrition and public health experts, would read: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.”


The idea for the bill was part of a CMA contest for medical school students and residents. The contest, called "My CMA Idea," collected ideas for public health legislation from medical students and residents, allowing future physicians to help craft public policy to better the health of all Californians.


The winner of the contest was a first year medical student from the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, Tom Gaither. Gaither says the idea came to him after teaching high school for two years in San Jose. “Kids would come to class with a soda or sports drink,” he said. “So many of the kids didn’t know how bad surgery beverages were for them.” He found himself so worked up about the subject that he taught a semester on sugar in foods for one of his classes.


A new field poll suggests that California consumers would welcome the warning label. The poll, conducted by The Field Poll and The California Endowment, found that 74 percent of California voters support the requirement to apply health warning labels to sugar sweetened beverages, with 52 percent of voters “strongly” endorsing the requirement. Support for the labeling of potentially harmful beverages was also bipartisan, with 80 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of non-partisan voters endorsing the labeling requirement.


Sugary drinks are the biggest contributor of added calories in the American diet, responsible for 43 percent of the 300 additional calories added to the average American’s daily consumption over the last 30 years. Drinking just one soda a day can increase 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 the risk of diabetes by 26 percent.


Complete information on the legislation can be found here.


Contact: Alecia Sanchez, (916) 444-5532 or asanchez@cmadocs.org.

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