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What You Should Know About Labeling Soft Drinks

September 12, 2016

Last January, Label & Narrow Web (L&NW) published an article about the potential soft drink label reform. Greg Glassman, Founder of Crossfit, has been working with anti-soda activist Harold Goldstein to increase public awareness about the health hazards of sugar, specifically the amount of sugar used in soft drinks. Through more informative custom labels, Glassman hopes to reduce cases of diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, and other chronic diseases.

Shoppers Want Better Labels

To reduce the number of chronic diseases in the US and to raise awareness about the potential dangers of sugar consumption, Glassman is a supporter of the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act. The Act was sponsored by Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) and according to the article, 74 percent of registered California voters were in favor of warning labels on soda cans and bottles. The bill failed to pass in California in 2015 and 2016, but Glassman and Goldstein don’t plan to give up anytime soon.

Passing the Act is still a work in progress and the FDA does not require that soft drinks include warning labels, but the FDA does require information about added sugars in pre-packaged foods on custom labels. Learn more about those changes here.

Labeling Soft Drinks

As of right now, soft drink companies aren’t required to include warning labels on their soft drinks, but surveys show that shoppers want to see more on product labels, especially when it comes to sugary soft drinks.

The Daily Press explained that 86 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Republicans, and 73 percent of nonpartisans all support warning labels on sugary drinks. 29 percent of voters support the warning labels as a tool for promoting personal accountability before purchasing an item and choosing to drink it, and 28 percent feel that it is the consumer’s right to know to which sugary drinks may be harmful to one’s health.

Requirements for Custom Labels

According to the FDA, carbonated soft drinks are required to include serving size and nutrient information on all nutrition labels. These requirements should include the number of calories, total fat, sodium, amount of carbohydrates, sugars, and protein. For labels that make claims such as “very low sodium”, manufacturers must add a statement that says “not a significant source of (fill in the blank with applicable nutrient information). 

Other label requirements for soft drinks include the address and name of the distributor, manufacturer, or packer; the total amount of soft drink in the container; all of the ingredients, listed in predominance by weight; and chemical preservatives with an explanation of their function. For example, an explanation could say “preservative” or “flavor protectant”. Diet drinks that contain phenylalanine must also include a warning that says “PHENYLKETONURICS: CONTAINS PHENYLALANINE” on custom labels. 

These are the only FDA soft drink requirements to date, but with the rising number of people who are actively making an effort to avoid sugary drinks, this could change in the future. Recent studies show that Americans are more likely to avoid sugar consumption over 14 other foods, including fat. 62 percent of Americans try to avoid diet soda, while 61 percent try to avoid regular soda. 50 percent try to avoid sugar in general. With the rising number of consumers avoiding sugar, transparency is becoming more important than ever more. 

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