Warning labels are one of the latest misguided attempts by the public health community to target sugar-sweetened beverages as a way to address the challenges of obesity and diabetes. However, placing warnings on sugar-sweetened beverages and not on other foods and beverages that contain greater calories will only mislead people and won’t improve public health.
What’s needed is clear and accurate information about how to maintain a balanced lifestyle - through total diet and exercise. Demonizing a single food or ingredient that is a small part of our average daily calories is not the solution, nor will it have any meaningful impact.
Bob Acherman, executive director of CalBev, a group that represents the beverage industry in California, explains in a recent piece in California Weekly that a proposed warning label in his state is “riddled with confusing exemptions. For instance, milk-based products like Frappuccinos® and lattes would be exempt from warning labels, even though some of these products contain as much sugar and more calories than a soda.”
“Over the past decade, added sugar intake from sugar-sweetened beverages decreased by 37 percent. Meanwhile, diabetes has spiked meteorically,” he writes. “It is counterproductive and misleading to suggest that focusing solely on soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages is the silver bullet solution to this complex issue.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows added sugar from soda is down 39 percent since year 2000, yet obesity rates have increased.
How can this be? Because diseases like Type 2 diabetes and obesity have multiple risk factors. No one single food, beverage or ingredient is uniquely to blame, yet that is what a warning label on sugar-sweetened beverages implies.
The beverage industry has stepped up to be part of meaningful solutions. We provide clear and accurate information about calories on the front of all of our products so people can make informed choices. We took things a step further in the fall with our Balance Calories Initiative, which will result in calorie information on more than 3 million company-controlled vending machines, self-serve fountain equipment and retail coolers in convenience stores, restaurants and other locations.
Science has shown that the key to maintaining a healthy weight is balancing calories consumed with calories burned, and sugar-sweetened beverages account for only 6 percent of calories in the average American’s diet. So why ignore the other 94 percent of calories? It simply doesn't make sense.
“Now is the time for a holistic approach to fighting obesity and diabetes – one that involves every Californian not just one industry,” says Acherman.
Check out YourCartYourChoice.com to learn more about warning labels and other ways to keep the government out of your grocery cart.