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Big Soda Has Lost a Big Fight Against Sugar Warnings

May 18, 2016, 5:02 PM UTC
Inside a Dollar General Store Ahead Of Earnings
Soft drinks are displayed on the shelf at a Dollar General Corp. store in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, U.S., on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. Photographer: Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Emile Wamsteker — Bloomberg/Getty Images

Big Soda has reportedly failed to stop a new San Francisco law requiring ads for sugary drinks to display warnings about the products’ possible negative health effects.

San Francisco passed the ordinance targeting sugary drinks last summer—and the beverage industry immediately pounced. But federal District Judge Edward Chen ruled against drink makers’ request to halt the law’s implementation on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reports, dismissing arguments that warning labels would present a threat to the industry’s free speech rights or excessively burden beverage companies.

The request for a preliminary injunction was brought forward by trade group the American Beverage Association, and then joined by allies the California Retailers Association and the California State Outdoor Advertising Association.

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With the complaint dismissed, the first-of-its-kind San Francisco law is slated to go into effect on July 25. Ads for drinks with added sugars, including billboards, will have to say, “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.”

The beverage industry has come under fire in recent years as public health advocates have turned their focus to additives such as sweeteners, including through proposed soda and sugar taxes. There is some debate about whether or not the taxes curb both sugary drink consumption and obesity, but recent evidence has shown Mexico’s new soda tax to be more effective than expected.

While beverage makers have fought such taxes and proposed FDA changes to nutritional labeling requirements, Big Three soda companies Coca-Cola (KO), PepsiCo (PEP), and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (DPS) pledged in 2014 to cut public calorie consumption from drinks by 20% by 2025.