State lawmakers are in the cross-hairs of soda and sugary beverage makers in the state of California as they recently introduced legislation that would require health warnings on the drinks that contribute to America’s growing waistline and healthcare costs. The bill is the first of its kind and is supported by several health advocacy groups, but the soda industry is expected to fight the measure tooth and nail to hold on to its corner on the market and on public ill-health.
“It is misleading to suggest that soft drink consumption is uniquely responsible for weight gain. In fact, only 4.0 percent of calories in the average American diet are derived directly from soda,” said a statement from CalBev, the California arm of the American Beverage Association, earlier this week.
But 4% is a considerable portion of a person’s diet, particularly when we are talking about calories that contain no redeeming qualities, no nutritional content, and no value other than boosting sugar and caloric consumption. I would also question that statistic, as primary soda drinkers likely consume far more than 4% of their daily calories from soda (not comparing the population as a whole).
More than 30% of all U.S. Americans are obese. Nearly 17% of children between the ages of 2 and 19 are, according to the CDC. It only takes a single soda each day to increase the likelihood of being overweight by 27%. For a child, one soda boosts the risk by 55%.
One to two sodas each day increases the risk of type-2 diabetes by 26% and it’s believed that if we continue at this rate, one in three children born after 2000 (and nearly half of all Latino and African-American children) will be diagnosed with type-2 diabetes in their lifetime.
If passed, the California bill would require sodas, flavored waters, energy drinks, or any other beverages with 75 calories or more per 12 ounce container to carry a label that reads:
“Warning: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.”
There’s no question the wording could have been much stronger, but the language was agreed upon by a panel of nutrition and public health experts. It’s sad that it has come to this.
The California Medical Association, California Black Health Network, and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy are just a few of the agencies that support the bill and are rallying behind it. They are up against groups like the American Beverage Association, which represents major corporations in the industry, and who successfully fought New York City’s ban on the sale of large sugary drinks back in 2012—a decision currently up for appeal in the New York state supreme court.
California has truly led the way in progressive food and health issues, banning junk foods and sodas from public schools in 2005, banning plastic bags, and more recently requiring warning labels on sodas containing certain levels of potentially-carcinogenic caramel color. Here’s hoping they are similarly successful here.