Sugary Drink Policy
Sugary drinks, also called sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), contribute significantly to obesity, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, and heart disease.
Sugary drinks include sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened juice drinks (punch and lemonade), teas, and coffees. Sugary drinks are the number one source of calories in Americans’ diets and contribute almost half of our added sugars intake. CSPI is working to support healthy beverage choices through education (public education campaigns, added sugars labeling, and warning labels), pricing strategies (sugary-drink taxes), increasing access to healthy beverages in community settings such as parks, public buildings, and restaurants, shining a spotlight on Big Soda’s deceptive practices and spending to fight communities’ health efforts, and taking Big Soda to court for deceptive claims and practices. CSPI also coordinated the effort to get sugary drinks out of schools, get added sugars added to Nutrition Facts labels, and educate the public through our Real Bears, Change the Tune, and other videos.
Food labels, such as the Nutrition Facts Label and health warning labels, help inform consumers about the nutrition of their beverage choices. CSPI petitioned the FDA in 1999 to disclose the amount of “Added Sugars” in food products and has been leading the effort ever since. In May of 2016, the FDA approved this update to the Nutrition Facts Label—more than 20 years after its introduction. CSPI celebrates this achievement and continues to advocate for front-of-package added sugar labeling to give consumers the information they need to make healthy choices. Moreover, CSPI believes consumers should be informed about the health risks of sugary drinks by having warning notices on sugary drink labels or at the point-of-purchase.
Sugary drinks are essentially liquid candy given their high sugar content. Reducing this amount would greatly lessen the health burden they put on so many Americans. The typical American consumes 22 to 28 teaspoons of added sugars per day, with the average 20-ounce soda containing about 16 teaspoons of sugar. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers sugar at this level as Generally Recognized as Safe, known as GRAS. In fact, 16 teaspoons of sugar amount to 130% of the recommended daily added sugars limit. CSPI has petitioned the FDA to remove the GRAS status from products consumed with these extreme amounts of added sugars.
See more resources on Reducing Sugar.
The real cost of sugary drinks’ harms to our health needs to be captured in taxes that can provide communities with the funds to address those health impacts. And communities across the country are beginning to do that as seen in Berkeley’s and Philadelphia’s successes in passing 1-cent-per-ounce and 1.5-cent-per-ounce taxes, respectively. The revenue from sugary-drink taxes can fund a wide-range of community-centered initiatives from nutrition education to pre-K programs to PE programs in school. CSPI supports these efforts and their resulting community health benefits.
See more resources on Soda Taxes.
Since 2009, Big Soda—namely Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and the American Beverage Association—has spent more than $100 million to undermine public health policies to reduce sugary drink consumption. Big Soda’s advertisements and influence are sprawled across billboards, pasted on the sides of public transportation, and endorsed by celebrities that youth admire (we’re looking at you, Selena Gomez). Big Soda also targets low-income and minority populations, adding to the disproportionate burden of diseases in those communities. It’s time for money-hungry Big Soda to feed consumers what they deserve: the truth about the unhealthiness of sugary drinks.
See more resources on Big Soda.
Sugary drinks are everywhere—in vending machines, 40-ounce cups in restaurants, hardware stores, drug stores, hospitals, and even on kids’ menus! CSPI coordinated the efforts of the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity to get soda out of schools. Now we’re improving access to healthier beverages at hospitals, parks, public agencies, and other public places. With one out of every three American children classified as overweight or having obesity, CSPI is calling on fast food and other restaurants to make it easier for parents by taking sugary drinks off kids’ menus.
Other Important Resources and Partners
- American Heart Association
- Boston Public Health Commission: Sugar Smarts
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Cut Back on Sugary Drinks
- ChangeLab Solutions: SSB Restrictions
- CHOICES: Cost Effectiveness and Impact of Excise Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Sugary Drinks
- Healthy Food America: Sugary Advocacy Toolkit
- Healthy Food America: Taxing Sugary Drinks
- Hidden Sugar
- Horizon Foundation: Promoting Healthy Lifestyles
- Kick the Can
- The Praxis Project
- Public Health Law Center: Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
- Salud America!: Sugary Drinks
- Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center: The Pros and Cons of Taxing Sweetened Beverages Based on Sugar Content
- UCLA Center for Health Policy: Still Bubbling Over – Policy Recommendations
- UCONN Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity: Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Resources
- Voices for Healthy Kids: Stop Sugary Drinks from Hooking our Kids
- World Health Organization: Fiscal Policies for Diet and Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases