July 13, 2005

U.S. group calls for health warnings on soft drinks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. consumer group on Wednesday
called for cigarette-style warnings on soft drinks to alert
consumers that too much of the sugary beverages can make them
fat and cause other health problems.

People who overindulge in soft drinks are also more likely
to develop diabetes and have decaying teeth, the Center for
Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said in a petition to the
Food and Drug Administration.

The warnings are especially necessary to help counter the
growing number of youth who drink soda, said the center, which
has previously put out reports publicizing the
health-threatening qualities of other popular foods such as ice
cream and movie popcorn.

"Parents and health officials need to recognize soft drinks
for what they are -- liquid candy -- and do everything they can
to return those beverages to their former role as an occasional
treat," CSPI officials wrote in a related report.

Studies show teenage boys drink about 1.5 cans of soda a
day on average compared to 1 can for teenage girls, according
to the group.

Some suggested warnings included: "To help protect your
waistline and your teeth, consider switching to diet sodas or
water" and "Drinking too many (non-diet) soft drinks
contributes to weight gain."

Soft drinks with more than 10 milligrams of caffeine per
12-ounce serving should also carry warnings that say it is "a
mildly addictive stimulant drug" that is "not appropriate for
children," CSPI added.

The group, which has also been fighting the prevalence of
soda-vending machines in U.S. schools, said new labels are
needed to help counter aggressive marketing by the soda

The American Beverage Association says soft drinks can be
part of a healthy diet and help keep people hydrated, citing
data from the American Dietetic Association.

"The beverage industry recognizes the need for children and
adults to consume a wide variety of beverages, including milk,
water, juices and sport drinks. And yes, there is room in that
mix for soft drinks," the industry group says on its Web site.

Some soft drink makers have also recently introduced
smaller-sized bottles and cans.

The three top beverage companies, Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo
Inc. and Cadbury Schweppes Plc, own the 10 most popular
carbonated drinks and account for about 90 percent of the
industry, according to market report Beverage Digest.