SF soda warning label proposal advances 

Marvin Orellana buys a soda from Gateway Newstand. - CINDY CHEW
  • Cindy Chew
  • Marvin Orellana buys a soda from Gateway Newstand.
Soda advertisements in San Francisco may soon come with warning labels about risks of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay under a proposal that advanced closer to approval Monday.

In addition to placing warning labels on sugary-sweetened beverages, the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee also advanced legislation that would ban the use of city funds for buying soda and impose a ban of soda advertisements on public property, similar to the current ban on tobacco and alcohol ads.

“I call it Round 2 against Big Soda in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Eric Mar, when he joined Supervisors Malia Cohen and Scott Wiener in introducing the three anti-soda proposals back in March. The first round was last year’s failed ballot measure that would have imposed a 2 cent per ounce tax on the purchase of sugary beverages.

The soda industry is also fighting these three pieces of legislation and so are billboard companies who complained they are being singled out since it doesn’t apply to television, radio or print media ads. “If the real problem is media, address media,” said Ryan Brooks, of Outfront Meida, formerly CBS Outdoor, a billboard advertisement company. “We don’t feel that it’s fair or legal to be singled out just because we are billboard company.”

Wiener engaged in a protracted debate with Lisa Katic,a dietician testifying on behalf of the American Beverage Association. “It’s overly simplistic not to mention potentially misleading to single out sugar sweetened beverages as the driving cause of type 2 diabetes and obesity,” Katic said.

But Wiener noted that one can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. ”Is that an excessive amount of sugar?” Wiener said. “It’s more than what’s recommended for people in a single day.”

Katic responded, “It depends on what somebody is doing throughout their day and what their activity level is.”

She added, “You can take all the sugary beverages out of the population now and we are not going to solve the obesity problem.”

But Wiener said the there is an “overwhelming consensus” in the health and scientific communities that the high in sugar drinks are contributing to health problems.

The supervisors noted that 56 percent of the voters last fall supported a tax on soda, even after the soda industry spent $10 million to defeat it. Since it needed a two-thirds vote it failed, but the supervisors said it shows residents want The City to do more to curb soda drinking.

The warning label would have to be placed on advertisements within one year of the law’s passage. If retailers are found to be in violation of the law they would have 30-days to comply. “This is not a gotcha kind of legislation,” Wiener said. The label would read: “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.”

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