By Patrick McGreevy
Labels warning consumers about the health risks of too much sugar should be placed on soda, energy drinks and sweetened ice tea bottles and cans, a California lawmaker said Thursday.
State Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) announced the introduction of the California Sugar Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Bill (SB 1000) during a morning teleconference, saying the labels will help people understand that high levels of sugar are linked to a decline in health.
"Consumers have a right and a need to know that what is advertised as 'anytime' drinks really pose a health risk," Monning said. "As with tobacco and alcohol warnings, this legislation will give Californians essential information they need to make healthier choices."
Monning's bill proposes that a warning label be placed on the front of all beverage containers with 75 or more calories per 12 ounces. The label would read, State of California Safety Warning: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.
Several organizations, including the California Medical Association, have co-sponsored the bill.
But the California Beverage Association dispute the claims. Citing the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the association said in a statement that food, not beverages are more to blame for Americans' expanding waistlines.
"We agree that obesity is a serious and complex issue," read the statement. "However, it is misleading to suggest that soft drink consumption is uniquely responsible for weight gain. In fact, only 4 percent of calories in the average American diet are derived directly from soda."
But the link between sugar and obesity has proven overwhelming, said Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director for the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.
"The average American drinks 45 gallons of soda a year. That's 39 pounds of sugar," Goldstein said. More than 35 percent of all Americans are considered obese or overweight. In California, that rate is about 25 percent.
"The truth is that we human beings didn't evolve to drink liquid sugar."
"The fact that our children are specifically targeted for aggressive marketing is also a tragedy," said Dr. Xavier Morales, executive director for the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. "We know contrary to the advertising that happiness does not come from a can."
Darcel Lee, executive director for the California Black Health Network, said her organization is working with churches to help spread the word about soda.
"Over half of African Americans born after 2000 will go on to develop diabetes," Lee said. "This is an outrage, a public-health outrage. We want those (beverages) to be labeled. A label means you ask questions, and questions lead to dialogue, and dialogue leads to learning, and learning leads to change."
A tax on sweetened beverages has been explored in the last several years by other California lawmakers. Monning last year even introduced a 1 cent tax per ounce on beverages that contain high sweeteners, but the bill was blocked.
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