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California legislators reject sugary drink labels bill. Long live calories!

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Consumption of sugary beverages is a risk factor for obesity, a growing problem in the U.S, as well as diabetes and tooth problems.

A bill in California that intended to make consumers aware of the health dangers of consuming sugary drinks would have deterred them from drinking too much soda and other sweet beverages. Unfortunately, the proposed measure didn't get the approval of state legislators.

On Tuesday, the Assembly Committee on Health junked SB1000, which would have made California the first state in America to require warning labels on sugary drinks. The bill did not meet the required 10 votes to pass as democratic lawmakers were dubious that placing warning labels on drinks would affect consumer behavior.

Supporters of the bill, which included the California Centre for Public Health Advocacy, California Medical Association and other public health groups contend that the warning label will encourage consumers to make healthier choices. State Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) also said that warning labels are the most effective tool to educate people about the health risks of consuming sugary drinks.

"Changing behavior is the hardest challenge in the world of medicine," Monning said. "But you can't start to even make a commitment to make behavior change if you don't have the information."

Had the bill been approved, sugary drinks sold in California will come with this label, which was modeled after alcohol and cigarette warnings:

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

Assembly member Jimmy Gomez, however, said that it was not necessarily the warning labels that changed the consumer's habits citing that the cigarette warning labels come with taxes and prohibitions for smoking in public places.

Industry representatives also raised concerns about the implications of the warning labels. Bob Achermann, from the California/Nevada Soft Drink Association, described the bill as unfair for labeling sugary beverages as a cause of weight problems and diabetes.

Others who opposed the bill also said that the label may confuse consumers as this would be placed only on sugary drinks and not on other sugar-packed foods such as candies and cakes.

Despite clamors from health advocates for ways that would reduce consumption of sugary beverages and junk food, proposed measures that would limit intake of these particular food and drinks did not fare well among policy makers. Earlier this year, Illinois lawmakers rejected a bill to tax sodas. Earlier attempts of Richmond and El Monte cities in California to impose additional taxes on business selling sugary drinks also failed.

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