We all know that soda isn’t good for us, and yet a lot of us continue to drink it. But what if sodas were labeled to warn us of the health risks?
That’s what a new bill in California aims to do. Passing the California Senate late last month, the bill would require obesity warning labels to be placed on sugary drinks. To pass, the bill will have to go through the state Assembly, and then be signed by Governor Jerry Brown, but if it does, it would be at the forefront of a movement to reduce the consumption of soda, as it’s linked to childhood obesity.
Considering obesity to be a public health issue, the authors of the bill hold that the government has a role to play in keeping its people healthy, and that means getting them off of soda.
“Liquid sugar is a significant and unique driver of obesity, preventable diabetes, and tooth decay,” Democratic state senator Bill Monning, author of the bill, told Reuters. “Some people accuse this (bill) of nanny governing and yet it is the government that’s responsible to protect the public health and safety of its people.”
Would such a label influence consumers to drink less? It’s worth taking a look at the cigarette industry for comparison. Since smoking was deemed to be a health hazard, and the United States decided to label cigarettes in the late 1960s, the number of smokers has declined. Certainly, there are still people that smoke regardless of the hazards, but labels, particularly graphic ones, have been proven to make a difference in consumer behavior.
What kind of drinks would be labeled? The bill would require that any sweetened non-alcoholic beverage (carbonated or non-carbonated) containing 75 calories or more per 12 fluid ounces be labeled with the disclaimer, “Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”
Are people ready for a label on sodas?
According to a poll earlier this year, 74 percent of California voters support the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act label, including 86 percent of Latinos. The bill also has support across party lines as well, with the same poll reporting that 80 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of Independents, 64 percent of Republicans, and even 63 percent of Tea Party members were in support.
“This is something that everybody can get behind,” California Center for Public Health Advocacy Executive Director Harold Goldstein told Food Safety News.
Well, not everybody.
CalBev, the California arm of the American Beverage Association, has come out in full swing against the bill.
“Putting government warning labels on more than 500 beverages will do nothing to change personal behaviors or teach people about healthy lifestyles,” said CalBev in a statement. “The last thing California needs is more warning labels.”
But whether or not the bill ultimately passes, it has raised the discussion on the impacts of soda, and added sugars, within the public sphere. “As long as this campaign is going on, there’s education going on,” Goldstein told Food Safety News.
What do you think? Should there be warning labels put on sugar drinks?
Photo Credit: Steven Depolo