A tale of two labels: New York, San Francisco get tough on health
Health officials in New York propose including a warning label on menu items with too much sodium, while San Francisco get closer to requiring warnings on sugar-sweetened beverage ads.
Two of America’s most iconic and populated cities are on the verge of passing new measures in the interest of public health. Health officials in New York City have proposed adding a warning next to menu items at chain restaurants (more than 15 locations nationwide) that contain more than the recommended daily limit for sodium. The city health department proposes requiring a salt-shaker symbol next to these items to clearly let consumers know which contain high amounts of salt.
According to the health department, roughly 10 percent of menu items in city chain foodservice restaurants covered by the rule would require a warning label. The department hopes these labels would help increase the knowledge and decrease the purchase and consumption of certain products.
The proposed label would read “Warning: (the symbol) indicates that the sodium (salt) content of this item is higher than the total daily recommended limit (2,300mg). High Sodium intake can increase blood pressure and risk of heart disease and stroke.”
Nearly 3,000 miles away in San Francisco, the city’s board of supervisors voted last week on a trio of measures targeting sugar-sweetened beverages, including the unanimous approval of an ordinance that would require warning labels on advertisements for beverages containing more than 25 calories per 12 ounces, excluding milk and fruit juices, the Associated Press reported.
Under the ordinance, advertisements—on billboards, bus shelters, pedi-cabs, etc.—would be required to carry the message “Warning: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.” Cans and bottles do not need to carry the warning.
The second measure prohibits advertising for sugary drinks on city-owned property, while the third bars the city from purchasing any of these beverages to be sold or distributed. The measures will need to be voted on again at a second supervisors meeting this week and require approval from the city’s mayor.
A blog post by the American Beverage Association says these kinds of measures send a message to consumers that is “dangerous and inaccurate.” ABA cites the decreased sales of sugar-sweetened beverages and an increase in obesity rates as reason why these attacks on beverages are a red herring.
A measure that sought to institute a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in San Francisco failed in last year’s election, though a similar law passed in neighboring Berkeley, CA.
The beverage industry has remained critical of this battle against sugar-sweetened beverages and continues to argue the public generally does not support these measures. It also points to the goals to reduce calories beverage companies have pledged in recent months.
“The beverage industry is doing its part to focus on real solutions that will help people make informed and balanced choices without taking away their freedom to choose for themselves what to drink,” the association says.
America’s leading beverage companies have set a goal to reduce beverage calories consumed per person by 20 percent by 2025.