Bill requiring health labels on sugary drinks fails in Assembly panel

Author of Calif. bill requiring health labels on sugary drinks says labels needed to combat obesity, diabetes

A proposal to affix health warning labels to sugary drinks, including sodas and sports drinks, failed to win sufficient support in a key Assembly panel Tuesday. 

The measure would have required sugary drinks sold in California to be labeled with a warning that sugar contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

"We're in the midst of a diabetes and obesity epidemic that is wreaking havoc on the public's health and driving up healthcare costs," said state Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), the bill's author, in his presentation before the Assembly Health committee.

The bill's supporters, including the California Medical Assn. and an array of public health groups, argued that labels would help consumers make healthier choices.

But Bob Achermann, of the California/Nevada Soft Drink Assn., said the bill was "punitive and unfair" by designating sugary drinks as a cause of obesity and diabetes.

Other opponents said consumers could be confused if labels were required for soda, but not other high-sugar foods such as cake or candy.

Some Democrats echoed industry's concerns.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), whose district includes a Coca-Cola manufacturing and distribution plant, said she supported a "holistic" approach to combating the rise of diabetes and other ailments. But said she was "not comfortable singling out a single product." 

The bill got seven 'aye' votes — all from Democrats — but short of the 10 votes it needed to pass. The measure was granted reconsideration, meaning Monning can try one more time to push it through the panel.

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

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