OUR VIEW

Our View: Last chance to save soft-drink labeling bill

May 22, 2014 

Some teenagers, if they know a soft drink is loaded with sugar and caffeine, will relish it all the more. For that kid, labels about sugar content would be an enticement – not a warning.

But that’s not really the target of Senate Bill 1000, which is in danger of dying today in the Appropriations Committee. Rather, picture a conscientious mom, sitting in the park as her toddler plays nearby. The kid gets thirsty and mom reaches into her big Mom Bag and pulls out a drink that brags about having 3 percent real fruit juice. Satisfied she’s made a healthy choice, she hands it to her pride-and-joy.

But many of those fruit-flavored soft drinks contain 15 times more sugar than mom put into her morning coffee. They’re nearly as bad as a fully sugared Mountain Dew. If that toddler drinks two of those a day, her chance of developing diabetes increases fourfold. Her chances of becoming obese go up 55 percent.

If this busy mom had seen a warning label, she might have reached for something else.

Involved dads and moms are some of the busiest people on the planet, but also some of the most protective. Putting labels on soft drinks that contain 75 calories or more saves them time and could save the rest of us a lot of money, according to Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

He points out that liquid sugar is more harmful than sugars in fruit or breads because the body absorbs it more quickly. In the liver, it becomes fat and increases bad cholesterol. Obesity afflicts nearly 70 percent of residents of San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties, compared with 56.3 percent statewide. Type 2 diabetes is epidemic in black and Latino communities, and nearly 1 in 4 teenagers either has the disease or is on the verge. That rate has doubled since 2004.

Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, according to the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency. It studied the cost of treating diabetes and found the average hospital visit cost $79,469. Over two years, diabetes treatment totaled $307 million.

Many people scoff at warning labels, saying they’re not effective. For them, they probably aren’t. But parents who care about their kids, grownups watching their weight, and even health-conscious teens will appreciate a sugar warning. Then they can pick up the soda and roll the diabetes dice, or reach for something else.

That’s why we support SB 1000 and hope Sen. Bill Monning will make the case to Sen. Kevin de Leon and the Appropriations Committee today that the bill should leave the “suspense” file (meaning the state can’t afford it) and move to the Senate floor. Once there, we hope Tom Berryhill, Anthony Cannella and Cathleen Galgiani will support it.

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