Sugary drink warning labels win key legislative victory

April 09, 2014
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Public Health 

Safety warning labels on sodas and other sugary beverages sold in California came one step closer to reality today, when the powerful Senate Health Committee approved SB 1000 on a 5-2 vote. The first-in-the-nation legislation was introduced by State Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) and co-authored by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to ensure that all Californians are aware of the critical scientific information linking sugary drink consumption to exploding rates of diabetes and obesity.

“Consumers have a right to know about the adverse health effects of frequent sugary drink consumption,” stated Senator Monning. “SB 1000 does exactly what the beverage industry has long said we should do – educate the public – and this is the appropriate public health response to the scientifically proven risks that liquid sugar poses to the public’s health. The bill is a common sense measure that is overwhelmingly supported by the public.”

SB 1000 would place a simple warning on the front of all beverage containers with added sweeteners that have 75 or more calories per 12 ounces. The label, developed by a national panel of 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.

Armed with overwhelming research linking soda and sugary drink consumption to skyrocketing rates of diabetes, obesity and tooth decay, the nation’s first measure requiring safety warning labels on sugary drinks now moves forward to votes in the Senate Committee on Appropriations, before being referred for a full Senate floor vote. According to a recent field poll, 74 percent of California voters, including a majority of Republicans and Independents, support warning labels on sugary drinks.  

“Science has conclusively shown that the jolt of liquid sugar delivered by a soda and other sugary drinks plays a unique and leading role in driving both diabetes and obesity epidemics. The average American is drinking nearly 45 gallons of these products a year, with little understanding of just how much damage they do to their health,” explains Dr. Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. “It’s irresponsible to sell such risky products without properly warning consumers of the threats they face.”

Research shows that a soda or two a day increases the risk of diabetes by 26 percent.

Sugary drinks are also the single largest contributor of added calories in the American diet, responsible for 43 percent of the additional calories consumed over the last 30 years. Drinking just one soda a day increases an adult’s likelihood of being overweight by 27 percent and a child’s by 55 percent.

“I see more and more patients losing limbs or going blind every year, and many of them drink a soda a day, unaware of just how hazardous the habit is to their health,” said Dr. Ashby Wolfe of the California Medical Association. “Diabetes rates have skyrocketed by over 600 percent over the past generation, and liquid sugar is uniquely responsible for this epidemic. Warning labels are a vital step toward preventing a lot of trouble down the road.”

These health implications are felt most acutely by California’s communities of color, which are the largest consumers of sugary drinks.

“Unless these twin epidemics are reversed, one in three children born after 2000 – and nearly half of Latino and African-American children – will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime,” said Darcel Lee, president and CEO of the California Black Health Network. “For that reason, the California Black Health Network has proudly joined with our state’s doctors to support this key legislation.”

The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC) echoed that sentiment. "We’re seeing unprecedented rates of type 2 diabetes and obesity in the Latino community,” says LCHC Executive Director Xavier Morales. “All lives matter and the health of our community requires immediate action. A warning label on the sugary beverages that are unique contributors to these health epidemics is a great first step."

SB 1000 is co-authored by Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg; Senators DeSaulnier, Leno and Mitchell; and Assemblymembers Ammiano and Williams. The legislation is co-sponsored by the California Black Health Network, California Center for Public Health Advocacy, California Medical Association, and the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California.

Complete information on SB 1000, including fact sheets on the science linking sugary beverages to diabetes, obesity and cavities, is available at www.sodawarninglabel.org.


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