The Senate Committee on Health yesterday passed a bill that would require all sodas and other sweetened beverages sold in California to carry a warning label about the possible harmful effects of drinking them.
The warning label would apply to drinks of 75 calories or more per 12-ounce serving and would read: "STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay."
Yesterday's hearing was the first big test for SB 1000 by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel). The bill generated heated discussion and ultimately passed on a 5-2 vote.
According to Javier Morales, executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, the ill effects from constant soda consumption is hitting the Latino community particularly hard with high rates of diabetes, obesity and tooth decay among adults and children, including many instances of diabetes-related amputation.
"It's an understatement to call this an epidemic," Morales said. "At every meeting I go to, where people are primarily Latino, I always ask, 'How many people have a family member with diabetes?' And 85 to 90% of them raise their hands."
Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) said she had serious reservations about the bill.
"There are parts of it that are going to need a little work," Wolk said, addressing bill author Monning directly. "You have asked me and I have agreed to give you a courtesy vote to allow it to get out of committee, but whether I will be on the floor for a [positive] vote, I don't know."
Wolk said she had problems with the list of beverages and with how vending machines are handled in the bill. "And the record-keeping, I think, is questionable for me," she said.
Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), the committee chair, took his concerns a step further, saying he couldn't support it.
"I agree, in the sense that, yes, we have an epidemic when it comes to obesity. Yes, we have an epidemic in diabetes. Yes, it hits communities of color higher than most, whether that's African American or Latino. Yes, I see the devastating effects on our health and on cost to the health care system," Hernandez said.
"But on this particular issue I am torn," he said. "I haven't been convinced that there is significant evidence that this is going to make a difference."
The bill now heads to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.