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.
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.