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Warning Labels on Sodas Could Come to California

California Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) and the California Medical Association have proposed the first bill of its kind (SB 1000) in the U.S. that would require any sugary drinks sold in the state of California to bear health warning labels much like those appearing on cigarette packaging, reports the Los Angeles Times.

soda_bottles_picAccording to Monning, "the legislation is necessary because research links sugary drink consumption to skyrocketing rates of diabetes, tooth decay and obesity," the Times explains. “When the science is this conclusive, the state of California has a responsibility to take steps to protect consumers,” Monning said. “As with tobacco and alcohol warnings, this legislation will give Californians essential information they need to make healthier choices.”

If approved, SB 1000 would require a warning label to appear on the front of soda cans and bottles of any beverages that contain added sugars. The beverages must contain at least 75 calories in a 12-ounce serving.

The label would read: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay," notes the Times.

In the case of soda fountain dispensers in fast food restaurants and stores like 7-Eleven, the warning label would appear on the dispensers. Movie theaters or other venues where the dispensers are attended to by employees behind the counter, the label would need to be placed on the counter.

soda_bottle_image“These diseases cost California billions of dollars in health care and lost productivity every year,” Dr. Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which is sponsoring the legislation, told the Times. “When any product causes this much harm, it is time to take action.”

Among the opposition to the bill is CalBev, the California division of the American Beverage Association, which includes members Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. According to the Times, "CalBev says the law should not single out one type of product for special treatment."

“We agree that obesity is a serious and complex issue,” CalBev said in a statement. “However, it is misleading to suggest that soft drink consumption is uniquely responsible for weight gain. In fact, only four percent of calories in the average American diet are derived directly from soda.”

“According to Government data, foods, not beverages, are the top source of sugars in the American diet,” the statement added.

Previous attempts by Monning to decrease soda consumption in California have been shut down due mainly in part to pressure from the food industry. A recent Monning bill that would have taxed soft drinks one penny per-ounce and raised more than $1.7 billion for anti-obesity programs in the state was squashed by a Senate committee after pressure from the California Nevada Soft Drink Association. The group argued that the bill wouldn't sway consumer habits, but rather increase their costs. glass_of_soda_with_ice_pic(Similar tactics were employed by the opposition to California Prop 37—the 2012 ballot initiative that would have required labeling for genetically modified foods sold in the state.)

According to the California Medical Association, Americans drink more than 45 gallons of sugary beverages a year, reports the Times. "Drinking just one soda a day increases an adult’s likelihood of being overweight by 27% and a child’s by 55%."

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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