A Wakeup Call to the Sugary Soft Drink Makers

truthfully labeled CokesRecently, US district court judge Edward M. Chen rejected industry efforts to stop a San Francisco law requiring a health warning for sodas and sugar-sweetened drinks.

Good. People’s health should take precedence over the financial interests of industry and its misleading marketing.

True, the warning isn’t required for newspaper, magazine or television ads, menus, or product labels. But it is required for ads on billboards, busses, transit shelters, posters, and in stadiums. And this is no “fine-print” compulsory warning. Everywhere it’s required to appear, it must take up 20% of the real estate of the ad and say,

WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.

Hopefully, this will be a wakeup call for soft drink companies to stop spinning away the reality of the harm their products can do.

But it’s also a wakeup call for all of us. Once you know the risks of consuming these beverages, it becomes your choice to assume responsibility. Whether you do or don’t, the consequences are yours to live with.

While this latest ruling is groundbreaking, it’s also limited to just one city. There’s much more that could – and should – be done.

  • Make warning labels the norm – in every city, every county, nationwide.
  • Provide public education on sugar, particularly “free sugar” and its established and dramatic role in the development of both dental and chronic diseases.
  • Raise awareness of how municipal water, hopped up on fluoride, is an unnecessary chronic, and potentially harmful drug treatment we are all given largely because of the high levels of free sugar in our diets.
  • Expand dental insurance for preventative visits designed to prevent disease, focused on diet, of course, but also issues such as tobacco use/cessation, effective home care, and follow-up checks.
  • Expand dental insurance to cover mercury-free restorations. Mercury is a known toxin but also a cheaper filling to place. As more dentists eliminate mercury from their practices, insurance should be required to keep up.
  • Encourage integration between medical and dental providers. The science is clear: The mouth provides critical health information about what’s going on elsewhere in the body.

While there’s no doubt that the soda and sugar-sweetened beverage industry will continue to fight against having to disclose the dark side of their sweet products, we’re with those who continue to advocate on behalf of bold and innovative moves to reduce obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.