US appeals court: No warning labels on sugary drinks

Woman comparing ingredients on soda bottle

The war on sugar has suffered a setback in San Francisco after an appeals court ruled the city’s planned soda-labeling rules violate the country’s constitutionally-protected free speech laws.

The Ninth Court of Appeals ruled last week that a hoped-for warning label, held up in the courts for more than three years, violates the First Amendment rights of drinks manufacturers.

Fortune: Why San Francisco cannot put health warning on soda bottles

Three years ago, San Francisco passed a city ordinance that required a cigarette-style warning label on soda bottles.

The label would have read: “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.” The label would have made San Francisco the only major US city to use a cigarette-style warning on soda bottles.

Naturally, the ordinance provoked a strong response from the beverage industry, which sought a court injunction back then. While the industry was not granted the injunction, the ordinance was frozen while it was under judicial appeal for three years.

The new victory for the sugary drinks industry is the second one against government attempts to curb sugar consumption. Earlier, a massive campaign orchestrated by the beverage industry scuttled soda taxes in California.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2016 began requiring a separate line for added sugars on food packages, the appeal court judges ironically used the FDA’s own language in shooting down San Francisco’s warning label.

The judges said the warning did not include the FDA’s view that sugar is “generally recognized as safe” when not consumed in excess.

Anne Mullens


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  1. Alain
    Just put a tax
  2. Carol
    Unbelievable. Do tobacco pack warnings violate free speech.?
  3. Kaye
    I really believe the American government wants to keep us addicted to sugar since they pretty much control the pharmaceuticals.
  4. Ryan
    Keep America stupid! One day Americans will wake up and ask themselves why they are obese and unhealthy. Pushback against educating the public will have dire consequences. Educating them with warning labels like this will at least be engrained in their minds. Instead they wish to keep people ignorant so they can continue to profit by them.
    Reply: #5
  5. Mauricio Silva
    Well done Ryan 👊

    ¡Mantén a América estúpida! Un día, los estadounidenses se despertarán y se preguntarán por qué son obesos y poco saludables. El rechazo a educar al público tendrá consecuencias nefastas. Educarlos con etiquetas de advertencia como esta, al menos, estarán grabadas en sus mentes. En su lugar, desean mantener a las personas ignorantes para que puedan seguir aprovechándose de ellas.

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