In San Francisco, city lawmakers have mandated that warning labels be put on ads for soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages, saying that this will help people be healthier. We agree that obesity is a serious and complex issue, but placing warning labels on ads for soda and sugar-sweetened beverages and not other foods and beverages that have greater calories will not only mislead the public but won’t improve public health.
This point was reinforced by Jennifer Graham in her article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“Soft drinks contain sugar. So do doughnuts, ketchup, spaghetti sauce and peanut butter. More than a third of the products in the supermarket could come with a warning label. Yet if we’re going to start publicly shaming the foods that are making us sick and fat, more than sugar belongs in the criminal lineup.”
Graham goes on to state that, “Warnings presume ignorance. Their absence presumes a population capable of assessing and managing risk, whether from one Oreo or a lifetime of root beer.”
Graham is right. Warning labels that vilify one product will not help reduce obesity. In fact, CDC data shows added sugar from soda is down 39 percent since 2000. If lawmakers want to get serious about solutions to this complex public health issue it starts with educating consumers about balancing their food and beverage calories with physical activity.
Our industry is doing its part to provide consumers with choices, information, support and motivation so they can make the select the beverage option that's right for them and their families. We're providing more no- and lower-calorie choices, as well as smaller portion sizes, and placing clear calorie information on every bottle, can and pack we make.