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San Francisco Wants to Put Warning Labels on Soda

San Francisco Wants to Put Warning Labels on Soda

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Warning: Drinking this bottle of Coke could potentially lead to diabetes. Care for some water instead? (Photo Modified: Flickr/mroach)

San Francisco really wants its residents to know that the city government is not messing around when it comes to health. Last year a measure to tax all soft drinks and other sugary beverages was voted down. The proposed legislation, spearheaded by supervisor Scott Wiener, was introduced earlier this week. If it’s passed, your bottles of Coke and Pepsi would read “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.”

“There’s an enormous amount of advertising of soda and other sugary drinks that associate them with love and happiness and everything good in the world when in reality it’s the largest source of sugar in the American diet, and it’s making people sick,” Wiener told SFGate. The legislation, if passed, would also apply to any soft drink advertisements posted in the city, including billboards, posters, and signs in sports stadiums. Failure to comply would lead to fines for any retailer or distributor.

Similar legislation proposed by supervisor Malia Cohen would ban soda ads from publically owned properties such as bus stops and parks. Yet another piece of legislation, this time from supervisor Eric Mar, would prohibit city employees from purchasing soda using city funds.

San Francisco Officials Considering A Health Warning On Ads For Sodas, Sugary Drinks

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San Francisco Officials Considering A Health Warning On Ads For Sodas, Sugary Drinks

The city’s Board of Supervisors is expected to vote today on measures that seek to put the brakes on soda drinking, with a “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Warning Ordinance” that would require health warnings on billboards, walls, the sides of cabs and buses and any other advertisements in San Francisco, reports the Associated Press.

Such a move would make San Francisco the first place in the U.S. to require warnings on soda ads. The warnings wouldn’t pertain to soda cans, bottles or other packaging.

The label for ads would read: “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.”

Some limited vintage signs are exempt, but otherwise retailers would have to carry warnings on advertising within stores as well. The ordinance would go into effect in a year, if approved.

“This is a very important step forward in terms of setting strong public policy around the need to reduce consumption of sugary drinks they are making people sick, they’re helping fuel the explosion of Type 2 diabetes and other health problems in adults and in children,” says Scott Wiener, one of three San Francisco supervisors pushing the legislation.

But opponents are already lining up against it, including CalBev, the state’s beverage association.

“It’s unfortunate the Board of Supervisors is choosing the politically expedient route of scapegoating instead of finding a genuine and comprehensive solution to the complex issues of obesity and diabetes,” a spokesman told the AP.

A spokesman for a company that has about 300 billboards and wall spaces says it isn’t fair just to focus on that medium while exempting newspapers and magazines.

“It’s all these people who are telling me how to live my life and raise my children. I make that decision, not a bunch of elected officials,” he says. “Let’s fix the homeless issue, let’s fix potholes before you start telling me how to live my life.”

Two other proposals before the supervisors would prohibit soda ads on city-owned property, while another would prohibit city funds from being used to buy soda. Mayor Ed Lee hasn’t said how he stands on the three proposals but said through a spokeswoman that he’s open to educating people through warning labels on ads.

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California Bill Seeks To Put Warning Label On Soda, Sugary Drinks

CULVER CITY ( — California may become the first state in the country to require warning labels on soda.

Activists say sugary soft drinks can contribute to diabetes and obesity but soda manufacturers strongly disagree, and promise to see this battle to the end.

“Soda and other sugary drinks are the number-one source of added sugar in the American diet,” according to Dr. Harold Goldstein, of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

The average American reportedly consumes 45 gallons of soft drinks a year.

SB1000 would require the warning on the front of all beverage containers with added sweeteners that have 75 or more calories in every 12 ounces. The label would read: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

Democratic Sen. William Monning, who proposed the bill, said there is overwhelming research showing the link between sugary drinks and those health problems, adding that the wording was developed by a national panel of nutrition and public health experts. The bill has the backing of the California Medical Association and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

“The goal of the warning quite simply is to give consumers the right to know what are well-established medical impacts from consuming these beverages,” Monning, from Carmel, said. “We’re talking about a public health epidemic that will take more lives than gun violence.”

The senator says the consumption of soda and other sugary drinks has taken an unhealthy turn since he was a child.

“From it being a treat when I was a child, that maybe on a weekend we’d get a 10-ounce bottle with a hamburger, now it’s liter bottles sold at a less expensive price than water, going into the refrigerator breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Monning said.

CalBev, the California arm of the Washington, D.C.-based American Beverage Association, noted that the industry already posts calorie counts on the front of many beverage containers as part of its “Clear on Calories” campaign that began in 2010. Also, drink bottles already have detailed ingredient lists and nutritional information.

“We agree that obesity is a serious and complex issue,” the company said in a statement. “However, it is misleading to to suggest that soft drink consumption is uniquely responsible for weigh gain. In fact, only four percent of calories in the average American diet are derived directly from soda.”

The group would not put a price tag on complying with the proposed legislation but said the measure would increase the cost of doing business in California.

The medical groups backing Monning’s bill countered with their own data, saying sugary drinks are the largest source of added calories in American’s diet in the last three decades. 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.

The warning labels would mesh, he said, with health campaigns and proposed ordinances in several California cities and elsewhere to discourage sugar consumption. San Francisco, for instance, is considering asking voters to approve a tax on soda and other sweetened drinks, while former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg unsuccessfully pushed proposals to tax soda and ban the sale of large soda containers.

Monning said warning labels can make a difference in consumers’ choices, particularly when paired with other public health campaigns warning of the dangers of obesity. It’s not the first time the senator has tried to rein in the sugary soft drinks. A Senate committee recently rejected one of his bills that proposed a one-cent-per-ounce tax on soft drinks to raise more than a $1 billion for anti-obesity efforts.

“We don’t underestimate what we’re up against,” he said. “We’re up against $100 million advertising campaigns.”

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

Monning equated the warning labels to similar efforts to control alcohol and tobacco and dismissed suggestions that the labeling would be another example of nanny government.

It all boils down to how far should the state go to protect the health of its citizens?

CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Dave Bryan spoke with Culver City residents, who seemed divided on the issue. Opponents insist when people buy soda they know what they’re getting.

“And it’s not like they’re forcing a bottle of soda down your throat. You make that choice to drink it or not. I just went into a store filled with soda, and did I buy it, no,” one woman said outside a convenience store.

“I don’t think it’s necessary, no. We have so many warnings on so many things. People should be accountable for their own decisions. Government can stay out of that,” another woman said.

A teach seemed enthusiastic about the proposed label: “I think it’s a great idea. I’m a teacher and one of my kids for breakfast is eating hot Cheetos and drinking Coca-Cola, and maybe if it’s right there on the label they’d think about it.”

David Hunter was among the store managers who think the warning labels wouldn’t have much impact, anyway: “I don’t think it will matter. I think soda will always sell. I think parents know the risks that they’re giving to their kids. We’ve all had soda our whole life. Yeah, I don’t think it will change the way people see soda.”

(TM and ©Copyright 2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

9th Circuit Court Blocks San Francisco Warning On Soda Ads

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — In a victory for big soda makers, a federal appeals court ruled that a San Francisco ordinance requiring health warnings on advertising for sugary drinks violates the first amendment.

The American Beverage Association reacted, saying in part: “We are pleased with this ruling, which affirms there are more appropriate ways to help people manage their overall sugar consumption.”

The ordinance was first passed in 2015 and required ads on billboards and posters within the city to include a warning that drinking high-sugar beverages contributes to health problems including obesity and diabetes.

“The court went through the analysis and said we just think this is unduly burdensome. The soda industry is probably going to win on the underlying case, so we’re going to stop this law from going into effect,” said KPIX 5 Political Analyst Melissa Caen.

The judges granted a preliminary injunction and kicked the case back to a lower court. The court also found that the warning which would cover 20 percent of the ad space was too large, and suggested 10 percent might be legal.

“This decision is solely about the size of the warning label,” said John Cote, communications director for the city attorney. “We’re evaluating our next steps in light of this decision.”

The San Francisco ordinance was part of a national effort to get people to stop people from drinking sweet drinks for health reasons.

“At the end of the day if you really want that soda, you’re going to drink it,” said Jessica Bakaldin in San Francisco.

Senator Scott Wiener who authored the ordinance said he is optimistic that the ordinance can be amended to pass judicial muster.

Why CrossFit’s founder wants the government to put warning labels on sugary drinks

CrossFit changed fitness. Now, the high-intensity workout colossus wants to change our diets, by cutting back on sugar-packed sodas and energy drinks, considered by many the key agents in the steep rise of obesity and chronic diseases including diabetes.

“We’re in a holy war with Big Soda,” CrossFit founder Greg Glassman recently told a crowd of about 200 at Carson CrossFit on a Saturday night. “It’s killing this country’s health.”

Glassman has been leading similar rallies at gyms across the state, all in support of the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act. Sponsored by state Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), the act would require sugar warning labels on soft-drink cans, bottles and vending machines. The warning, similar to that on cigarette packs, would read in part, “Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

The proposal was defeated before a state health committe last year. Although a Field Poll that showed 74% of voters favor warning labels, the bill failed in part due to four lawmakers who abstained. A new vote is slated for Jan. 13.

And committee passage is a mission for Glassman.

He’s been anti-sugar for decades, and has long made “Eat No Sugar” a cornerstone of CrossFit’s philosophy.

“Training thousands of clients taught me that you are not going to exercise your way out of a [bad] diet,” he said. He has joined forces with Harold Goldstein, the anti-soda activist and founder of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. And he’s also hired lobbyists, and launched a website called, all in a bid to convince vote abstainers to change their minds.

He says CrossFit followers have targeted committee members with 4,500 emails so far.

The lawmakers who abstained at the last vote — state Sens. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), Richard D. Roth (D-Riverside), Isadore Hall III (D-Compton) and Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) — declined to comment. Glassman notes that many of the lawmakers’ constituents are black and Hispanic, two groups that disproportionately suffer high diabetes and obesity rates.

Nguyen’s chief of staff, Mark Reeder, said her office has heard similar criticism: “We got a fair amount of unhappy letters … generally saying ‘It’s a health issue,’” he said. “Some minority groups met with us, thinking they are being targeted by the soda makers.”

The American Beverage Assn. also declined to comment on Glassman’s efforts, beyond issuing a statement: “Addressing obesity and diabetes is more complicated than a warning label, which is why California’s legislators have repeatedly rejected misguided policies like SB 203.”

Glassman is used to seeing people sprout muscles and shed fat in a few weeks after adopting a CrossFit lifestyle, including grueling workouts of burpees, thrusters and clean-and-jerks, and a diet that ditches processed food and sugar.

And he knows taking on sugary drinks is much harder.

“Every day in the gym, we fight chronic disease, but the debilitating effects of sugar are overpowering,” Glassman said. “For the rest of my life, I’ll be a one-issue guy. It’s reducing sugar consumption.”


Supporters of the legislation introduced on Thursday said the warning labels would merely provide consumers with information they should have to make healthy, informed choices.

“My own husband had to watch his father have, first his foot and then his leg amputated from diabetes,” said Darcel Lee, a physician who is executive director of the California Black Health Network, which supports the bill along with the California Medical Association, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy and other groups.

Under the bill, all beverage containers with added sweeteners that have 75 calories or more per 12 ounces would be required to carry a label that reads: State of California Safety Warning: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.”

The label text was developed by a national panel of nutrition and public health experts.

Supporters said the requirement would effectively apply to any sugar-sweetened sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, vitamin water and iced teas, all of which he said have been marketed more aggressively by beverage makers in recent years.

U.S. soda consumption rose sharply in recent decades, even as the health risks of sugary drinks became better understood.

Drinking just one soda a day increases an adult’s likelihood of being overweight by 27 percent and a child’s by 55 percent, while a soda or two a day increases the risk of diabetes by 26 percent, studies show.

Unless current trends are reversed, health advocates say, one in three U.S. children born after the year 2000, and nearly half of Latino and African-American children, will develop type-2 diabetes in their lifetimes.

Other health risks linked with obesity include heart disease, cancer and asthma.

By the sheer magnitude of California’s economy, requiring safety labels on sodas sold there would likely influence other states or the federal government to follow suit.

Obesity accounts for nearly $200 billion a year in U.S. medical spending, more than 20 percent of national healthcare costs, according to a 2012 report in the Journal of Health Economics. It also is linked to lower worker productivity and diminished quality of life.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein Additional reporting by Steve Gorman and Lisa Baertlein Editing by Sophie Hares and Andre Grenon

Warning labels that include photos linking consumption of sugary drinks to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay may reduce purchases of the drinks, according to a new study by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Business School. In a field study conducted in a hospital cafeteria, researchers found that graphic warning labels reduced sugary beverage purchases by 14.8 percent, while text warning labels and calorie labels had no effect.

“Warning labels have been around a long time for tobacco products, but they’re a new concept for sugary drinks,” said study co-lead author Grant Donnelly, assistant professor of marketing at Ohio State University and a former doctoral student at Harvard Business School. “Text warning labels have been passed in San Francisco and are being considered in many jurisdictions in the U.S. and around the world. Ours is the first study to evaluate the effectiveness of sugary drink warning labels.”

The study was published online Monday in Psychological Science.

Researchers tested three different labels — one with text warnings about the health risks of sugary drinks, one with graphics warnings, and one with calorie listings — which they displayed near bottled and fountain beverages in a hospital cafeteria in Massachusetts. The labels were tested consecutively, with two-week “washout” periods between each test during which no label was displayed. More than 20,000 beverage sales were recorded during the study.

The findings showed that during the weeks when the graphic warnings were displayed, the share of sugar-sweetened beverages purchased in the cafeteria declined by 14.8 percent. Consumers appeared to substitute bottled water for sugary drinks. The average calories per drink sold also decreased during that period, from 88 to 75. The text warnings and calorie labels did not have a significant effect on beverage purchasing.

Then the researchers conducted two follow-up studies online. In the first, consumers were asked how seeing a graphic warning label would influence their drink purchases. Findings showed that the graphic warnings increased both negative feelings about sugary drinks and consideration of health risks over taste.

In the second, nationally representative online study, more than 400 participants were asked whether they would support putting the three labels on sugar-sweetened beverages. When participants were told that graphic warnings were effective at reducing sugary beverage consumption, they were equally supportive of the graphic labels warnings compared to text warnings or calorie labels.

“Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugars in the American diet and reducing intake of these beverages could improve population health,” said co-lead author Laura Zatz, doctoral student in the Departments of Nutrition and Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard Chan School. “As policymakers search for ways to reduce excess consumption of sugary drinks, graphic warning labels merit consideration as a tool that can empower consumers with salient information to encourage healthier choices.”

Co-author Dan Svirsky is a doctoral student and senior author Leslie John is associate professor in the negotiations, organizations, and markets unit at Harvard Business School.

Support for this study came from Harvard University’s Behavioral Insights Group and Harvard Business School. Zatz is supported by a T32 training grant (DK 007703) from the National Institutes of Health.

California Senate Requires Sugary Drinks to Have Warning Labels

In a bill the state Senate in California passed on Thursday, sodas and other sugary drinks sold in California must come with a warning label. This label must explain the risks of obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay from consuming the products. The beverage industry, of course, vehemently objected to the bill.

The Senate voted 21-11 on Thursday to require drinks that have 75 calories or more of added sugar or sweeteners per 12 fluid ounces to have warning labels. The labels will look a lot like the ones on cigarette packs. You know, the one, containing a triangle with an explanation mark inside it and the warning in bold type placed on the front of the container. The warning will appear separately from other information, such as the nutrition or ingredients.

Retailers serving fountain drinks would have to put up warning signs about the products where their customers can clearly see them. The Department of Public Health would enforce the law. Enforcement would include warnings for a first offense and fines of up to $500 for every subsequent violation. However, retailers would be protected from lawsuits from customers.

Bill author Senator Bill Monning, D-Carmel, said that they aren’t taking the products off the shelves. They simply want to help customers make an informed decision people have a right to know what’s in the products they’re consuming.

Opposition from the beverage industry

According to records, the American Beverage Association spent more than $273,000 lobbying against the bill and others since January 2019. It has called the labels misleading, reiterating what the Food and Drug Administration said about added sugars generally recognized as safe when consumed sparingly.

The association also pointed out a federal appeals ruling in January that prevented something similar from happening in San Francisco. The ruling stated that the measure violated constitutionally protected commercial speech.

American Beverage Association spokesman Steven Maviglio said that the beverage industry supports providing customers with accurate information on its products however, they state that using misleading labels that have been blocked in other courts in California is not the best way to go about doing that.

After debate, the bill only had 17 votes, but needed 21 to pass. However, the bill came back up for a second vote a few hours later that time, it passed with the necessary 21 votes after Monning convinced some of the holdouts.

The bill will now head to the state Assembly, where a similar proposal didn’t pass two years ago, according to Monning.

Other laws regarding the beverage industry have also been brought up in California. Last year, a law was passed requiring restaurants to only list milk or water on children’s menus, offering sodas and other sugary drinks upon request only. However, a law that would tax soda and ban “Big Gulp” style drinks failed to pass earlier this year.

What do you think of this law? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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35 of 36 Soft drink and soda bottles are displayed in a refrigerator at El Ahorro market in San Francisco, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. In November 2016, voters in San Francisco and Oakland will consider a penny per ounce tax on sugar laden drinks such as bottled cola, sports drinks and iced teas in November. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) Jeff Chiu/Associated Press Show More Show Less

San Francisco&rsquos groundbreaking effort to curb soda consumption by requiring health warnings in display ads hit a judicial wall Tuesday when a federal appeals court barred enforcement, saying the messages were one-sided and would violate advertisers&rsquo freedom of speech.

The city ordinance, the first of its kind in the nation, was passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors in 2015 and was scheduled to take effect in July 2016 but has been put on hold by the courts during a legal challenge by the beverage industry. It would require display ads for sugar-sweetened drinks to devote 20 percent of their space to a warning that drinking such beverages &ldquocontributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.&rdquo

The warning language would specify that the message comes from the city, not the advertiser. But the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said free speech includes the right of advertisers to refuse to convey warnings about their products, except when the warnings are clearly factual.

Warning labels saying that cigarettes pose a risk of cancer, for example, are clearly factual, but San Francisco&rsquos message misleadingly implies that sugary drinks are more dangerous than other high-calorie products and pose health hazards regardless of the user&rsquos overall diet or lifestyle, the court said.

&ldquoBy focusing on a single product, the warning conveys the message that sugar-sweetened beverages are less healthy than other sources of added sugars and calories,&rdquo Judge Sandra Ikuta said in the ruling by a three-judge panel.

She noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has declared that added sugars &ldquocan be part of a healthy dietary pattern when not consumed in excess amounts.&rdquo San Francisco did not specifically advise against &ldquooverconsumption&rdquo of sugared beverages or say they &ldquomay contribute&rdquo to certain illnesses, but issued an unqualified and thus inaccurate warning, Ikuta said.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the government to regulate advertising more closely than individual speech, the law &ldquodoes not allow the state to require corporations to provide one-sided or misleading messages, or to use their own property to convey an antagonistic ideological message,&rdquo Ikuta said.

She also said the 20 percent ad space allotted to the warning would leave advertisers &ldquolittle room to communicate their intended message.&rdquo One member of the panel, Judge Dorothy Nelson, said she would block enforcement of the ordinance solely because of the size of the message, without deciding whether it was misleading.

Bill Monning seeks soda label warnings

SACRAMENTO &mdash State Sen. Bill Monning doesn”t want to ban Big Gulps, but he announced legislation Thursday to make sure they come with a stern warning.

Monning, a Carmel Democrat who for years pushed for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, unveiled a new approach: He wants sodas and other sugary drinks to come with labels rivaling those on cigarettes and alcohol, warning consumers that their drinks are dangerous.

“That is not in dispute. That is science. That is hard evidence,” Monning said. “What we seek to do is make that information more present to the consuming public, a consumer ”right to know,” if you will.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sugar-sweetened beverages are the leading cause of added sugars in the diets among American youth and have been linked to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular and dental disease.

The industry group CalBev disputed that soda played a leading role in the U.S. obesity epidemic, saying a small fraction of average daily caloric consumption comes from sweetened beverages, and that the number has gone down 39 percent since 2000.

“We agree that obesity is a serious and complex issue. However, it is misleading to suggest that soft drink consumption is uniquely responsible for weight gain,” the group said in a statement. “In fact, only 4 percent of calories in the average American diet are derived directly from soda. According to government data, foods, not beverages, are the top source of sugars in the American diet.”

Monning, a vocal public health advocate, has tried to push California into the forefront nationally by using legislation to cut down on its consumption through taxes, which he wants to direct toward public health efforts.

Monning”s new tactic would force manufacturers to add warnings to their labels documenting the health risks associated with excessive soda consumption.

The effort echoes a letter written by health advocates in 2011 asking the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require warnings.

“What we”re trying to say to the consuming public is, ”Stop, think, listen to the information that”s being shared and reform your practices.” We”re not taking away choice, we”re not taking it off the shelves,” Monning said.

A 2013 Field Poll showed more than two-thirds of Californians would support a tax on sweetened beverages if the revenue went to school nutrition programs. However, Monning”s proposal has never found the same traction in the Legislature.

Studies have shown lower health care costs associated with a sweetened-beverage tax. A new study published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health found a tax would also lead to job increases, with cuts in the sweetened-beverage industry offset by gains in other beverage industries and the government.

State Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, wants the following language added to cans and bottles of most sweetened beverages in California:

· “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”


  1. Yvet

    cruel! very cruel.

  2. Osla

    You have an entertaining and interesting article. Unlike most other similar ones, there is a minimum of water!

  3. Darrel

    A very funny opinion

  4. Eoghann

    What are the correct words ... Super, brilliant idea

  5. Moogulrajas

    I apologize, but in my opinion you are wrong. Enter we'll discuss.

  6. Wakefield

    Would like to say a pair of words.

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