Judge clears way for San Francisco's soda pop warnings

Judge clears way for San Francisco’s soda pop warnings

ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE by Nathan Bomey of USA Today

Soda pop manufacturers will be forced to include warnings about the potential dangers of their products on certain advertisements in San Francisco after a federal judge declined to halt a new law.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen refused Wednesday to block the measure from taking effect July 25, meaning the soda pop companies will be required to sound the alarm about the health effects of sugary beverages.

The law specifically requires the warning on printed ads, posters and billboards, but not on TV commercials or packaging. It applies to beverages with one or more added caloric sweeteners and more than 25 calories per 12 ounces.

The American Beverage Association, California Retailers Association and California State Outdoor Advertising Association had filed a lawsuit seeking a temporary injunction blocking the rule from implementation. They argued it violated their free speech rights.

Supporters of the law say it’s critical to warn consumers about the connection between sugary beverages and health problems. The language that must be included on the ads states: “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.”

Chen wrote in his order: “The warning required by the city ordinance is factual and accurate, and the city had a reasonable basis for requiring the warning given its interest in public health and safety.”

Health advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has said deemed sugary soft drinks “liquid candy” that is “harming America’s health,” applauded the decision.

“Judge Edward Chen’s ringing knock-down of Big Soda’s efforts to derail San Francisco’s requirement for a health warning on sugar drink advertisements is a major step forward in public health efforts to combat diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, and other soda-related diseases,” the group said in a statement.

The American Beverage Association, which represents the interests of soda giants such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, has argued that soda is being unfairly targeted. The group says people who reduce their intake of calories from soda simply increase their caloric consumption elsewhere.

Soda has been a major target of politicians and health groups in recent years, demonized as a source of empty calories and for its high level of sugar. In 2012, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on sales of sweetened bottled drinks and fountain beverages larger than 16 ounces. It was ultimately struck down by the New York Court of Appeals.

Other efforts have been made by states to tax sugary drinks or add warning labels to products, which come as the soda industry grapples with years of declining sales. To stem the fallout of fewer soda drinkers, makers have been moving more into non-carbonated beverages such as bottled water, juice and coffee.


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