The Warning Label Bill on Sugary Drinks in California: Is It a Solution in the Battle Against Obesity?

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In February 2015, a Californian lawmaker introduced a new bill that would require a warning label to be placed on sugary beverages in the state of California. Senate Bill 203 would mandate the placement of a warning label on cans and bottles of drinks that contain 75 or more in added sugar calories for every 12 ounces.

The warning label would read: STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

“Sugar-sweetened beverages are the single largest reason for the obesity epidemic in California. For this reason, we need this bill to establish the Safety Warning Act, to provide consumers with the information they need to make informed decisions about what they’re drinking,” said by Senator Bill Monning, one of the authors of SB 203.

Indeed, sugary beverage intake doubled in the last thirty years in California that contributed to the rise in obesity and diabetes.

However, CalBev, the organization representing soda companies in California, argues that obesity is a complex issue that cannot be simply resolved by limiting soda intake. “It is misleading to suggest that soft drink consumption is uniquely responsible for weight gain”, stated Bob Achermann, the executive director of CalBev.

While limiting sugary drinks may not solve the whole issue of obesity, addressing it in parts, like this soda bill, can be the beginning of the battle against obesity. The use of a warning label will enable individuals to make better choices with their drinks.

To lend your support for this bill, please visit the public health advocacy website to sign up.

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8 Responses to “The Warning Label Bill on Sugary Drinks in California: Is It a Solution in the Battle Against Obesity?”

  1. ynangwenyi Says:

    The warning labels sound similar to those used on tobacco products. This bill can have a major impact and raise awareness, but sustained behavior change will require other measures. Soda taxes (as championed by Mayor Bloomberg) may have an additive effect since sodas are generally cheap, but may be difficult to pass. I would also recommend offering affordable alternatives to consumers which can help to overcome loss-aversion–a strong influence on human behavior.

  2. drantonioquispe Says:

    Labeling Soda Products is a good start point, particularly to raise critical awarning about the risk of consuming sugary drinks in excess. However, I also agree with the soda companies argument, which is a great argument except for the fact that is completely deceiving. It is true that obesity is a complex problem and that consuming sugary drinks is not the uniquely responsible for weight gain, but the warning does not conflicts with these arguments it just says that they “contributes” to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay, which is also true. Forcing the sugar drinks industry to stay half-trues to defend themselves is a good sign that this battle have just start, but so far it looks promising for the people of California.

  3. nkoba1 Says:

    I agree with the statement that this is the just first step against the obesity, and I think that we need stronger public intervention. I recently learned hyperbolic discounting in Health Economic lecture, which means that people prefer the pleasure near future and they can’t think of the long term effect reasonably as a human nature. From this perspective, they can’t stop drinking even if they know the sugar contained in soda. I think that further intervention should be done in terms of ecologic and behavioral science. In reality. I’m unhappy that there is few choice of unsweetened beverage in my favorite Seven-Eleven near school compared to that in Japan.

  4. Sinae Sophie Suh Says:

    Thank you for all comments.
    Speaking of the sugar beverage taxation, it actually is not the first time for Bill Monning, the Californian senator who proposed the labelling bill, to try to reduce SSB consumption in California. He proposed the similar bill last year, which is about to impose tax on SSB. However, it could not make to pass in Assembly. I agree with the comment by ynangwenyi that it is more affordable alternative to warn people about what to drink.
    The soda companies’ arguments sound somewhat compelling, however we need to look at what the statistic shows : SSB are indeed the single largest reason for the obesity epidemic in California. But we also need to be wise to approach in multi-aspect to address obesity, as soda industry mentioned.

  5. mohammadabbaskhan Says:

    It is a very informative blog and I think the consumption of sugar is strong risk factor for obesity, which effects roughly one-third of the American population. Obesity also serves as a predisposing factor for metabolic diseases like diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases. The increase sale of SSB’s has led to an increase in the incidence of these diseases. Taking a step further, I think the key factor is to control the sales and manufacturing of the SSB’s and making effective measures to prevent the predisposition of the individuals. Simple and effective measures can include the reduced sugar intake and regular exercise, which can drastically decrease the episodes of obesity and metabolic disorders thereby bringing better quality of life for the average American population.

  6. ariannahutcheson Says:

    While I think it is good to get the ball rolling somehow, I question the impact this could really have. I think about the little impact that putting warnings on cigarette packs had or the how people already completely ignore nutritional labels. I think a warning label has to included in a multi-pronged approach, like maybe a tax or something. Although that also seemed to have little impact for cigarette smoking as well. Behavior change for a behavior that does not necessarily show immediate negatives is hard.

  7. kamillegardner1384 Says:

    As my fellow classmates have mentioned, similar legislation have proved successful in the past and I agree with the students that this is a step in the right direction towards limiting consumption of beverages with high sugar content.

    This reminds me of New York’s attempt in 2013 to place a ban on the sale of jumbo-sized soft drinks. The state attempted to pass a legislation to prohibit businesses from selling sodas and other sugary beverages larger than 16 oz. Unfortunately, this bill was rejected, but it definitely sparked a national debate on the U.S.’ excessive consumption of such beverages. (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/27/nyregion/city-loses-final-appeal-on-limiting-sales-of-large-sodas.html?_r=0)

    I hope this piece of legislation gets passed, and that other states will eventually follow suit. Obesity is certainly a major concern in the U.S., particularly among children and adolescents and such a warning label can help promote awareness of the consequences frequent consumption of such sugary drinks can have on an individual’s health.

  8. svhurt Says:

    Obesity and the subsequent risk of metabolic disease and obesity-related condition is the most expensive health issue currently facing the U.S. I have always found it hard to believe that something so simple as a warning label would be contentious when it could be so effective at not only a personal health level but also on a national scale. While I agree with the above that it is only a first step, I think it is the most important. Why? Because many times, education and beliefs are at the root of the problem. Many people in the U.S. are not educated on the effects of sugary drinks in their diets. In fact, most people are not aware that calories are contained in drinks to the magnitude that they are present. It is common for the sodas to have the more negative reputation, but there are many drinks such as fruit juices, ades, and sport drinks that are equally culpable. When consumed, these beverages comprise the equivalent caloric content of a meal or two, and because they are not solid food, they do not suppress the appetite for a real meal. This leads to an excess daily intake of calories that is not otherwise warranted. To another point made above, there is a need for immediate satisfaction to quench thirst; however, long-term culminating effects are not so easily associated to having a few sugary drinks every day. In fact, it seems quite harmless. At the very least, while the ultimate behavior is determined by the benefit to risk decision made by the consumer, moving forward with an informative label at least gives he/she the power to make an educated decision whereby otherwise, a second thought would not be given.

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