The Center for Science in the Public Interest has joined with a number of health groups and state agencies in a letter to Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, urging her to use the agency’s authority to require warning labels on sugar-sweetened drinks.

Specifically, the groups are calling for a rotating series of messages that warn consumers about the risks of weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and health problems by drinking sugary drinks. “In light of the overwhelming evidence linking soft drinks to serious diseases, consumers deserve to know – and soft drink labels should disclose – those health risks,” the letter said.

According to one study cited in the letter, drinks like soda pop and others containing sugar are now the single largest contributor of calories to the diet, with as much as 10 to 15 percent of teens’ caloric intake, and even toddlers consume fruit drinks and soda pop at an estimated average of seven ounces per day.

Joining the CSPI are health groups like the American Public Health Association and the Trust for America’s Health, as well as a number of governmental health departments, including the New York State Department of Health, the Boston Public Health Commission, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, and the El Paso, Texas, Department of Public Health.

Suggested labels include: “This drink contains 250 calories. Consider switching to water.”; “Drinking too many sugary drinks can promote diabetes and heart disease.”; and “For better health, the U.S. Government recommends that you limit your consumption of sugary drinks.”

The letter requests that the warning labels be placed on drinks that contain more than 1.1 grams of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or other added caloric sweeteners per ounce.

“Although by no means a cure for America’s obesity problem, warning labels are a standard public health tool that has been effectively used to raise public awareness of the hazards of tobacco use and the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages,” the letter argued. “Placing health messages on [such beverages] would alert consumers to major health risks and reduce the occurrence of diseases linked to obesity and overweight.”

To read the CSPI’s letter to Commissioner Hamburg, click here.

Why it matters: The CSPI petitioned the FDA with a similar request in 2005, but acknowledged that the idea had more traction with the Obama administration, which has been vocal about reducing childhood obesity and encouraging children to eat more healthfully.