Americans have been consuming too much sugar for too long, says the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. In fact, two-thirds of the adult population is overweight or obese. In response to the country’s health crisis, public health experts have officially announced their support for health warning labels on soda and other sugary drinks. The legislation proposed in New York and California outlines labels designed to inform consumers of the risk of diabetes, obesity, and tooth decay.
“Given the federal government’s failure to act, it’s important that states protect their consumers by giving them this information in a clear, inexpensive way so that adults and children alike could make truly informed choices,” the Center for Science in the Public Interest Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson said in a press release. “Soda and sugar drinks promote expensive and debilitating diseases, but unlike most other foods or beverages, have no redeeming nutritional qualities.”
Similar to the health warnings found on packets of cigarettes, minus the grotesque images, advocates want a “buyers beware” label in order for the public to make informed decisions on what goes into their bodies. “My hope would be that it would be a national label,” Public health advocate Sharon Akabas, a professor at Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition, told lawmakers Monday.
Labels could discourage the consumption of products linked to expensive and largely preventable health conditions, according to Akabas. Recently, a report from the McKinsey Global Institute found obesity’s global costs have reached $2 trillion — the same level as smoking, war, and terrorism. In 2008, the annual cost of obesity in the United States alone was $147 billion, and the numbers have risen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors believe there’s no one simple solution to the problem, but suggest the world needs to work together to lower the price it’s costing our health and wallets.
“It’s such a complicated issue,” said Maston Sansom from the Food Industry Alliance of New York State’s grocery store trade group. “There needs to be more focus on education as opposed to just singling out this one product.”
There are warning labels on alcoholic beverages to make consumers wary of over-consumption, operating machinery, and the dangers of drinking while pregnant — but none on sugar-laden beverages. If the currently proposed bill were to pass, any beverages that contain added sugar and 75 calories or more in one 12-ounce serving will require the label. Similar bills have been proposed in the past, like last year when the bill made it through the Senate but was rejected when it reached the State Assembly. This warning label bill stands a better chance than the controversial 2013 soda tax bill because it requires fewer votes to pass with just a majority in the Senate and State Assembly.