Sugary Drinks - Should They Require Warning Labels?
May 28, 2014

Should Health Warning Labels Be Placed On Sugary Drinks And Vending Machines?

Gerard LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Public health professor Simon Capewell from the University of Liverpool recently published a personal view urging the addition of warning labels to be placed on sugary drinks.

This is in connection with a new health bill from the state of California.

The bill consists of adding health warnings to vending machines and to be placed on sugary drinks, stating that they are linked to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. Failure to adhere to the regulation will result in fines between $50 and $500 per infraction. Capewell agrees with the bill and thinks the UK public would also.

Products such as cigarettes, insecticides and other harmful products already carry warning labels, and Capewell says their effectiveness is “now agreed by almost everyone.”

“Sugar is the new tobacco” Capewell said in a recent statement claiming the food industry was focused on “profit not health.”

In a recent survey conducted by BBC and referred to by Capewell, 60 percent of adults would support warning labels on food packaging and 70 percent “would support banning sugary drinks in UK schools or limiting the amount of sugar allowed in certain foods.”

A European study revealed that adults who consumed more than one can of a sugary fizzy drink a day had a 22 percent higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes than those who drank less.

He writes that sugar is “increasingly being implicated as a specific causal factor” and “current UK and US obesity policies are failing to reverse obesity trends.” He also wonders whether “calorie control strategies could learn from previous successful lessons in tobacco control and alcohol control.”

A new US/UK campaign group that Capewell is part of, Action on Sugar, has recently convinced Tesco to “write to all suppliers asking them to remove all added sugars from children's soft drinks,” while the Co-op “also plan to slash added sugar from products” and Asda agrees “that innovation of healthy new products was 'fundamental.” This comes after asking companies to voluntarily make changes has failed.

Capewell says that warning labels represent an “interesting natural experiment” that “may offer an effective new strategy to complement existing, potentially powerful interventions like marketing bans and sugary drinks duties.” He concludes that “proposals may herald a tipping point in public attitudes and political feasibilities” and “investors, industrialists, and international health groups will all be watching closely.”

According to The Daily Mail, Dame Sally Davies UK’s chief medical officer stated in March that the government may soon impose a sugar tax on junk food and sugary fizzy drinks to combat obesity.

According to the World Health Organization, the maximum daily intake for sugar is ten teaspoons, but the average Briton takes in 12 with some adults consuming as much as 46.

Professor Tom Sanders, Head of Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences Division, School of Medicine at King’s College London has a different view. He told the Daily Mails' Jenny Hope, “Excessive intake of sugary drinks contributes to unhealthy weight gain in children. But sugar is not like tobacco: it is not addictive and does not cause cardiovascular disease and cancer. Oral rehydration solutions, which contain sugar, have prevented millions of deaths. The risks to young people’s health presented by smoking, alcohol, drugs, unsafe sex, tattooing and body piercing are far greater – a warning label on soft drinks suggests a lack of perspective.”