A California Senate committee on Wednesday failed to pass a bill that would have required soda companies to print warning labels about the sugar content in the drinks they sell. The measure was aimed at curbing California’s spiraling diabetes rates, which increased 38 percent between 1998 and 2007.
SB 203, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning, D-Carmel, would have required all drinks with 75 calories or more per fluid ounce to carry a warning, stating: “Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.” The bill would have established the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act prohibiting anyone from selling a sugar-sweetened beverage unless its container carries the safety warning.
“Given the rock solid scientific evidence showing the dangers of sugary beverages, the state of California has a responsibility to inform consumers about products proven to be harmful to the public’s health. This bill will give Californians the at-a-glance information they need to make more healthful choices every day,” Monning had said, in February.
The bill fell short in a Wednesday vote, with four senators voting for the bill, four abstaining, and one voting against it.
“While I am disappointed about the outcome of SB 203, this will not deter me from my fight against the leading contributor of diabetes and other chronic illnesses,” Monning said in a statement. “The scientific evidence of the proven adverse health impacts of sugar-sweetened beverages demands a health warning label, and it is only a matter of time before California enacts legislation that informs individuals about healthful beverage choices.”
SB 203 is the successor to SB 1000, a similar bill that failed in the committee last year. Discussing the bill last year in California’s Assembly Health Committee, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, pointed out the important role that soda companies play in the state’s economy, calling for a more holistic approach.
In November, the city of Berkeley, California, passed the country's first soda tax, charging one cent per ounce on all soft drinks.