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The most recent move by lawmakers directed at encouraging Americans to drink less soda and sweetened beverages has passed its first legislative hurdle. On April 9th, the Senate Committee on Health passed a California bill that would require sugary drinks to carry warning labels regarding the possible harmful effects associated with consuming these beverages. The warning label would apply to drinks containing 75 calories or more per 12-ounce serving, and would read: "STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay."
This bill is not the first attempt at influencing consumers drink choices. The bill’s author, Senator Bill Monning, unsuccessfully backed a measure to tax sugary beverages and soft drinks last year. In 2012, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg led a citywide ban on the sales of oversized soft drinks, which was deemed illegal by a state judge after legal challenges by soft drink makers and restaurant groups. Not surprisingly, this labeling bill is meeting fierce opposition from the U.S. food and beverage industry. A representative from the California Nevada Soft Drink Association said that while the bill may be well-intentioned, it "will do nothing to prevent obesity, diabetes or tooth decay, and may even make problems worse."
California, which banned sodas and junk food from public schools in 2005, is already at the forefront of a growing national movement to reduce the consumption of high-calorie beverages. If enacted, this legislation would help to educate consumers about the dangers of consuming excess sugar without requiring more controversial measures like bans and taxes.
The bill now heads to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.