Soda Warning Labels Could Soon Be a Thing in California



Sugar is bad for you. Your mom probably warned you that it would rot your teeth. We now know that excessive sugar consumption can lead to much more insidious health problems, such as Alzheimer's disease and diabetes. It's also likely to make you fat. 

I wish Americans would cut down on sugar (and food companies would stop adding sugar to everything from soup to bread to barbecue sauce). But I also wish American politicians would stop trying to enact futile, overreaching policies to force sugar consumption down. The latest of these comes from California, where legislators are rushing to be the first in the nation to mandate warning labels on sugar-sweetened beverages. 

Much like the warning labels that appear on cigarette packaging, these labels would read:

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

If enacted, California Senate Bill 1000 would require this warning be added to the front label of all beverages that contain added sweeteners and more than 75 calories per 12 ounces. It would also be required on self-serve soda dispensers and on restaurant menus. The measure was approved by the Senate Health Committee this week.

"The bill is a common sense measure that is overwhelmingly supported by the public," said California Sent. Bill Monning (D-Carmel). Common sense?

Sure, it is common sense that sugar can contribute to weight gain and tooth decay—which makes the proposed labels all the more nonsensical. Just in case you forgot, this thing you're consuming—like many, many things at the grocery store—could lead to weight gain and other bad shit if you have too much of it! Um, okay? Thanks for the obvious and unnecessary heads-up!

Ostensibly, the measure has broad bipartisan support in California. A February 2014 poll found nearly 75 percent of California voters said they support warning labels on sugary beverages (but that poll was also paid for by the California Endowment, a group campaigning in favor of the labels). 

"The public is really supportive of disclosure in various forms—they tend to believe the public health community, and when they issue health warnings, they want that information out and known to the public," said Mark DiCamillo, director of the nonpartisan research organization that handled the California Endowment poll. 

Disclosure in this case, however, requires prominent advertising the amounts of sugar and calories in a beverage—not vague, mealy-mouthed scaremongering. Monning's proposed soda warning labels don't actually disclose any concrete relevant information at all.