California could become the first state in the nation to require warning labels on sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks if it passes a new bill introduced in the state Senate.
Backed by several health advocacy groups, the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Safety Warning Act was sponsored by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), who has previously introduced legislation to tax sugary drinks.
The proposed law would require all beverage containers that contain beverages with added sweeteners that have 75 calories or more per 12 ounces to feature a label reading: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay."
In addition, restaurants or other businesses with a vending or beverage dispensing machine selling such drinks would also be required to display a safety warning on the machine or in view of customers. Violations of the law – which would take effect on July 1, 2015 – would result in a civil penalty of at least $50 but not greater than $500.
“When the science is this conclusive, the state of California has a responsibility to take steps to protect consumers,” Sen. Monning said in a statement, in which he analogized the labels to warnings on alcohol and tobacco products.
In an interview with Reuters, he also acknowledged that passage of the bill will likely be an uphill battle. “I think there will still be opposition from industry, but we’ll probably have stronger support in the legislature,” Sen. Monning said.
Beverage groups – including the California branch of the American Beverage Association – have already spoken out against the legislation. “It is misleading to suggest that soft drink consumption is uniquely responsible for weight gain,” the group said in a statement.
To read SB 1000, click here.
Why it matters: The battle over sugary beverages has made it to the West Coast. While California could become the first state in the nation to include warning labels on sodas and similar drinks, New York is still struggling with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt at regulation. With the backing of the Mayor, the New York City Board of Health passed a ban on “giant soda” in 2012, prohibiting the sale of 16-ounce or larger beverages “sweetened with sugar or another caloric sweetener that contain more than 25 calories per 8 fluid ounces.” Industry groups successfully challenged the law, which was enjoined by an appellate court as an “impermissible trespass on legislative jurisdiction,” a ruling that is now on appeal to the state’s highest court.