Legislation Calls for Safety Warning Labels to Highlight Health Risks of Sugary Drinks

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Armed with overwhelming research linking soda and sugary drink consumption to skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay, the nation’s first legislation requiring safety warning labels on sugary drinks sold in California was introduced today by State Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel).

“When the science is this conclusive, the state of California has a responsibility to take steps to protect consumers,” stated Senator Monning. “As with tobacco and alcohol warnings, this legislation will give Californians essential information they need to make healthier choices.”

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.

“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,” explains Dr. Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which is sponsoring the legislation. “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 drinks are the biggest contributor of added calories in the American diet, responsible for 43 percent of the added calories in the American diet 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. Research shows that a soda or two a day increases the risk of diabetes by 26 percent.

“As physicians, we’re desperate to break the cycle of diabetes and obesity we see in our offices every day,” explains Dr. Ashby Wolfe of the California Medical Association, which is also sponsoring the legislation. “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 felt most acutely by California’s communities of color, which are the largest consumers of these sugary drinks. Unless the obesity epidemic is 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. For that reason, the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California and the California Black Health Network have also joined as sponsors of the legislation.

Complete information on the legislation, including fact sheets, is available at sodawarninglabel.org.