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Another Attempt To Put Warning Labels On Sugary Drinks

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Sacramento, CA — A bill narrowly cleared the state Senate this week that would require sodas and other sugary drinks sold in California to come with warning labels about obesity, diabetes and tooth decay despite strong opposition from the beverage industry.

The Senate voted 21-11 on Thursday to require warning labels on drinks that contain 75 calories or more of added sugar or sweeteners per 12 fluid ounces. The labels would be similar to those on cigarette cartons, which show an explanation mark inside of a triangle placed on the front of the container in bold type and separate from all other information.

After debate, the bill had 17 votes; four short of the 21 required to pass. Some back room wrangling with holdouts allowed the bill to pass another vote several hours later. No Republicans voted for the bill. Nine Republicans and two Democrats voted against it. Five Democrats and one Republican did not vote.

The bill also requires retailers serving fountain drinks to put up signs warning their customers. Enforcement would be handled through the Department of Public Health by issuing warnings for a first violation and fines of up to $500 for every violation after that.

The measure does shielded retailers from lawsuits brought by consumers.
“We are not removing the product from the shelves. We are informing choice. It’s a public right to know,” states bill author Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel).

There has been significant opposition from the beverage industry. Financial records show that over $273,000 have been spent since January by the American Beverage Association for lobbying against this bill and others. That lobbying also included taking lawmakers and their aides to Sacramento Kings’ games.

The American Beverage Association has called the labels misleading, noting statements from the Food and Drug Administration that added sugars “generally are recognized as safe” when not consumed in excess. They also point to a January federal appeals ruling against a similar San Francisco measure where a judge found it violated constitutionally protected commercial speech.

The bill now heads to the state Assembly, where Monning anticipates a challenge as he says a similar proposal failed to pass two years ago.

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