No Warning Labels on Sugary Drinks; Assembly Committee Rejects Proposal

An Assembly committee yesterday voted to reject a bill to put health risk warning labels on soda, energy drinks and other sweetened beverages.

Ironically, the long road for the controversial health-awareness bill ended in the Committee on Health.

SB 1000 by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) passed the Senate two weeks ago but stalled yesterday before the 19-member health panel. The bill — known as the Sugary Drink Safety Warning Act — would have required the following message on sweetened drinks containing 75 calories or more per 12-ounce serving:

“CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

“The label is based on the science that says liquid sugar is a unique driver in advancing obesity diabetes and tooth decay,” Monning said.

“Most people have no idea how bad sugar is for you,” said Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, based in Davis. “They know it’s not good for you, but they have no idea that liquid sugar leads directly to diabetes.”

According to John Latimer, legislative advocate for the California Retailers Association and PepsiCo, those characterizations of the effects of soda on health are unfair.

“What are we telling consumers — that a 75-calorie soda needs a warning label but a 250-calorie doughnut does not?” Latimer asked?

The bill singles out one industry, said Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). “And that’s an industry that provides thousands of middle-class jobs in my district. With health care benefits,” Gonzalez added.

When it comes to addressing the burgeoning number of Californians with diabetes and obesity, Gonzalez said she’d be in favor of a more holistic approach.

That sentiment was echoed by several other legislators on the Health committee.

“We need to be more active, and to educate our families,” said Assembly member Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona). “Putting a label on a product, that doesn’t mean the kids will read that label. It begins with our families. Just labeling one product doesn’t work.”

“I guess the enemy of the good is the perfect,” said Assembly member Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata), who voted for the measure. “It’s a start,” he said. “And it’s a reasonable proposal, and we owe it to our children to give them a little counter-awareness.”

The bill needed 10 “aye” votes. It failed on an 8-7 vote, with four abstentions.

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