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Soda warning mandate passes California Senate

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Legislation to raise awareness of the harmful effects of drinking sugary benefits, SB 1000, the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Safety Warning Act, was passed by the California Senate on May 29. After passing by a 21 to 13 vote, the bill will be assessed by the State Assembly. The bill is the first of its kind in the nation; it is designed to help curb soaring diabetes rates by placing a simple warning label on the front of all bottles and cans of sugary drinks sold in California.

The bill was introduced last February by Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel), in partnership with health advocates, community groups and physicians. It will apprise all Californians of the science supporting the harmful effects of consuming these beverages. The label, which was 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.

“Today’s vote is a major step toward warning people about the profoundly harmful effects of consuming liquid sugar,” explained Dr. Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, a sponsor of the bill. He added, “SB 1000 supports consumers’ right to know the facts about diabetes, undiluted by beverage industry spin.” Supporters of the bill note that an overwhelming body of scientific research notes that liquid sugar is uniquely harmful because it gets absorbed very rapidly, much faster than solid food. When sugar rapidly enters the bloodstream, it overloads the pancreas and causes the liver to store the sugar as fat; thus, increasing the risk of liver disease. This situation directly to diabetes, which has tripled in the US over the last 30 years. Research shows that drinking one or two sugary drinks a day increases the risk of developing diabetes by 26%. Currently, two-thirds of California teens drink one or more sodas a day—a higher proportion than ever before.

According to a recent Field Poll, 74% of California voters, including a majority of Republicans and Independents, support warning labels on sugary beverages. The bill will now be evaluated by the California State Assembly for consideration by policy and fiscal committees. It will then be submitted to a floor vote by August 31, 2014. If passed in that house with a simple majority, the legislation will then move on to the governor’s desk; with approval, it could be signed into law by September 30, 2014. With the governor’s approval, all sugary drink containers would display a warning label by July 1, 2015. Complete information on SB 1000, including fact sheets on the science linking sugary beverages to diabetes, obesity and tooth decay, is available at this link.