California could be the first state to require warning labels on sodas and other sugary drinks if Democratic Senator William Monning’s proposal to add a warning label, as with tobacco and alcohol, to beverage containers containing added sugar is passed by the state legislature.

Proposal Backed by Medical and Other Health Groups

The label would read: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.” Monning cites overwhelming research showing the link between sugary drinks and health problems, and his bill has the backing of the California Medical Association and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California and the California Black Health Network also are sponsoring the legislation.

Government’s Role in Protecting Public Health

“It is not the responsibility of industry to protect the public health. It is the responsibility of government,” Monning says. “The warning labels would mesh with health campaigns and proposed ordinances in several California cities and elsewhere to discourage sugar consumption.”

Beverage Industry Resistance

Of course, CalBev, the California arm of the Washington, D.C.-based American Beverage Association is resisting the proposal, saying that the industry posts calorie counts on the front of many beverage containers, and claiming that just 6 percent of calories in the average American’s diet come from soda, fruit, sports and energy drinks.

Medical Data Backing the Proposal

Medical groups backing Monning’s bill countered by saying that, in the last three decades, sugary drinks have been the largest source of added calories in the diet of Americans. They also said one soda a day boosts an adult’s chances of being overweight by 27 percent and a child’s by 55 percent, and it can increase the risk of diabetes by 26 percent.

Monning said the labeling would be consistent with the industry’s own stated goal of providing consumers with information to make intelligent choices.