California Could Become The First State To Put Warning Labels On Sugary Drinks

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

California lawmakers have proposed the first-ever bill to put health warning labels on sugary drinks sold in the state.

Supporters are citing medical studies that link soda and obesity.

"When the science is this conclusive, the state of California has a responsibility to take steps to protect consumers," said bill sponsor Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel.

The proposed label reads: "STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay."

The bill would put warning labels on the fronts of cans and bottles of soda and juice that have sugar added and contain 75 or more calories per 12 ounces, the Los Angeles Times reported.

At places where sugary drinks are sold, like movie theaters, the warning would appear on the counter. Sit-down restaurants would have to put the label on menus. Soda dispensers in restaurants would have warning labels on the machines.

"As with tobacco and alcohol warnings, this legislation will give Californians vital information they need to make healthier choices," Monning added.

The measure is supported by the California Medical Association and opposed by CalBev, the state’s branch of the American Beverage Association.

"As physicians, we're desperate to break the cycle of diabetes and obesity we see in our offices every day," said Dr. Ashby Wolfe of the CMA. "Consumers have a right to know about the unique health problems associated with soda and other sugary drinks."

Drinking one soda a day increases an adult's likelihood of being overweight by 27 percent and a child's by 55 percent, according to a study published last year in the British Medical Journal.

"CalBev opposes the bill because obesity is a complex condition that can't be boiled down to one specific product or ingredient," said CalBev spokeswoman Jessica Borek.

"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."

About one in 10 Californians has diabetes. That’s a total of three million people, according to the state’s Diabetes Information Resource Center.

Obesity-related illnesses account for 10 to 12 percent of all health insurance spending and 11 percent of Medicaid expenditures, according to

Sources: Los Angeles Times, ThinkProgress