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Calif. soda-labeling bill sidelined over costs

Calif. soda-labeling bill sidelined over costs
A bill to require sugary drinks to include a label on the health risks has stalled in California. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO — A state bill that would require health-warning labels on sugar-added drinks and sodas in California was sidelined Monday for further review of its enforcement costs even though its author argued that it would cut costs to taxpayers in the long term by reducing diabetes and other obesity-related diseases.

The Senate Appropriations Committee moved SB 1000 to the suspense file. Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) said he will work to reduce the $390,000 in immediate costs of enforcement for his measure so it can be revived for a floor vote.

The bill would require a label on sugary drinks that have more than 75 calories per 12 ounces.

"The label would simply convey to the consumer the known adverse health impacts necessary to make an informed choice," Monning told the committee, noting the label would warn that sugary drinks contribute to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

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Monning said the bill will eventually reduce how much taxpayers have to pay for healthcare costs involving obesity, which he said are about $52 billion annually.

Sugar added to drinks is a major cause of diabetes, according to Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. "We are really talking about an epidemic," Goldstein said.

However, the bill is facing heavy opposition lobbying from businesses. Ralph Simoni of the California Nevada Soft Drink Assn. said the record-keeping required for selling hundreds of drinks would be a "very onerous burden," and is unnecessary. "The beverage industry has voluntarily listed calories on the front of every package," he said.

John Latimer, a lobbyist for the California Retailers Assn., opposed the bill, saying putting labels on one product "disproportionately" blames soda for a health issue that involves many other products and issues.

"We think we are going to add to consumer confusion," Latimer told the Senate panel.

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