California Senate Holds Soda-Labeling Bill Over Costs

(KJM-427/Flickr)

(KJM-427/Flickr)

A bill to put warning labels on sodas and other sugary drinks in California is on hold for now. After clearing one committee vote earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee suspended the SB 1000 Monday, over the cost of enforcing the measure.

The proposed labels would warn people that “drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay,” and would apply to all sugary drinks that have more than 75 calories per 12 ounces.

KQED News host Mina Kim spoke with Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) Monday afternoon about the committee’s decision.

The appropriations committee made the move largely over the estimated $390,000 in enforcement costs that the state will face if the bill becomes law.  While Monning said that the committee’s decision to move the bill to the so-called suspense file is “common procedure,” the Los Angeles Times reported that Monning intends to rework the bill to reduce those costs before reintroducing it for another vote later this spring.

The Times reported that the bill faces opposition from businesses. From its report:

Ralph Simoni of the California Nevada Soft Drink Assn. said the record-keeping required for selling hundreds of drinks would be a “very onerous burden,” and is unnecessary. “The beverage industry has voluntarily listed calories on the front of every package,” he said.

John Latimer, a lobbyist for the California Retailers Assn., opposed the bill, saying putting labels on one product “disproportionately” blames soda for a health issue that involves many other products and issues.

But Monning called the concerns a “red herring” and said most of the requirements of the bill would be borne by manufacturers at the time of production, not retailers. “I really see this as a consumer right-to-know bill,” Monning said. “People say, ‘well the calories are already posted on these sugar-sweetened beverages,’ but what’s not known is that all calories are not created equally, and the calories in sugar-sweetened beverages are for the most part empty and actually damaging to the liver and pancreas that convert sugar to fat more rapidly than sugar in foods.”

The bigger question is whether a warning label will have any effect on consumption. “It’s a fair question,” Monning said, “and I don’t think we have data we can project.” He said that warning labels need to be part of a broader public education campaign.

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