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California senate committee approves bill requiring warning labels for sugary drinks

[JURIST] The Appropriations Committee of the California State Senate [official websites] on Friday voted 5-2 [ballot results] to pass a measure requiring distributors of bottled or canned sugary drinks to fix warning labels to the beverage container [SB 1000, PDF] before sale. The warning label required by the bill reads: "STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay." The bill was authored by California state senator Bill Monning [official website], who had previously sponsored a bill to tax distributors of sugary beverages [text, PDF] at the rate of USD $0.01 per fluid ounce of sweetened beverage, whether bottled or produced from concentrate. However, the bill died in committee [Monterey County Weekly report] in May of 2013. The sugary drink labelling bill could be voted on by California's State Senate as early as Wednesday [Reuters report].

The bill marks the latest move by state lawmakers to increase US health consciousness and combat the obesity [JURIST news archive] epidemic. In 2012 New York's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYDOH) [official website] adopted a resolution [NYC Health Code 81.53, PDF] prohibiting the sale or provision of "sugary" beverages in large cups or containers by food service establishments. A state trial court determined in March of 2013 that the rule impermissibly trespassed into legislative jurisdiction and overstepped its chartered authority, and that the definitions of beverage types and service establishments would lead to "arbitrary and capricious consequences," and thus permanently enjoined enforcement [JURIST report]. Last July a New York state appeals court upheld the lower court's ruling [JURIST report] that a municipal agency cannot ban large portions of sugary drinks. Although the court conceded that over-consumption of high sugar content beverages is directly related to an increase in diabetes and juvenile mortality rates, it held that the state constitution does not grant an executive agency the power to curb the portions of such drinks. The California legislature passed a law banning the sale of sugary drinks and junk food in schools in 2005, and the law took effect [JURIST report] in July of 2007.

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