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Warning labels proposed for sugary drinks sold in California

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A multitude of studies have linked consumption of sugary beverages with health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. As a result, a number of organizations have taken action to alert the public about the health consequences of consuming these beverages. The latest move took place on February 13, when State Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) introduced a bill, which marked the nation’s first legislation that would mandate safety warning labels on sugary drinks sold in California. Sen. Monning explained, “When the science is this conclusive, the state of California has a responsibility to take steps to protect consumers. As with tobacco and alcohol warnings, this legislation will give Californians essential information they need to make healthier choices.”

SB 1000 would require the placement of a simple warning on the front of all beverage containers with added sweeteners that have 75 or more calories per 12 ounces. The label was developed by a national panel of nutrition and public health experts; it would read: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.” Dr. Harold Goldstein explained, “The science on the harmful impacts associated with drinking soda and other sugary drinks is clear and conclusive. An overwhelming body of research has unequivocally shown that sugary drinks are major contributors to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.” Dr. Goldstein is a member of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which is sponsoring the legislation. He added, “These diseases cost California billions of dollars in health care and lost productivity every year. When any product causes this much harm, it is time to take action.” Sugary beverages are the largest contributor of added calories in the American diet,; they are responsible for 43% of the added calories in the American diet over the last three decades. Drinking just one soda a day increases an adult’s probability of being overweight by 27% and a child’s by 55%. Research has found that a soda or two a day increases the risk of diabetes by 26%.

“As physicians, we’re desperate to break the cycle of diabetes and obesity we see in our offices every day,” explained Dr. Ashby Wolfe of the California Medical Association, which is also sponsoring the legislation. He added, “Americans drink more than 45 gallons of sugary beverages a year. These drinks have become a major part of the American diet, and we drink them without a second thought to the damage they do to our health. Consumers have a right to know about the unique health problems associated with soda and other sugary drinks.”

The health implications are the greatest for California’s ethnic minorities because they are the largest consumers of these sugary beverages. Unless the obesity epidemic is controlled, one in three children born after 2000, and nearly half of Latino and African-American children, will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Because of this ethnic connection, the California Black Health Network and the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California have also joined as sponsors of the legislation.

Complete information on the legislation, including fact sheets on the science linking sugary beverages to diabetes, obesity and cavities, can be found at this link.