Professor Simon Capewell, professor at the University of Liverpoolthinks there should be health warning labels on sugary drinks. He seeks the political climate of California, which is effectively a one-party state so if a current bill to put warning labels on sugary drinks makes it out of committee, it will mean vending machines would have to carry warning labels. Capewell thinks that can happen in the UK as well.
He likens sugar to toxic chemicals and cigarettes – warning labels for those are "now agreed by almost everyone", he says, leaving out that studies showed those things cause direct harm while juice and soda in moderation do not. Capewell says UK public support for warnings is high, suggesting that labeling is feasible.
"A recent BBC survey found that 60% of adults would support health warnings similar to those on cigarette packets on food packaging. Even more, 70%, would support "banning sugary drinks in UK schools, or limiting the amount of sugar allowed in certain foods".
Sugar is the most recent fad in scare journalism, being increasingly listed as a causal factor for obesity. Since nothing else has worked to cut obesity trends in the UK, he believes warning labels are worth a shot. He wonders whether "'calorie control' strategies could learn from previous successful lessons in tobacco control and alcohol control".
In other words, fine manufacturers of sugary drinks and give that money to advertising companies so they can create awareness campaigns warning people of the dangers of sugary drinks.
Professor Capewell says the industry is now moving that way thanks to advocacy efforts. The campaigning group Action on Sugar has recently persuaded Tesco to "write to all suppliers asking them to remove all added sugars from children's soft drinks", while the Co-op "also plan to slash added sugar from products" with Asda agreeing "that innovation of healthy new products was 'fundamental'".
Asking them is not saying they will remove sugar, of course. And it's easy to throw out ideas in an editorial but reality is more complex. There is nothing superior about the sugar in orange juice versus the sugar in soda. Added sugar will be touch to survive the lawsuits.
Since the argument is academic, and Capewell isn't tasked with thinking about lost jobs when yet another industry is driven out of western countries, he speculates that warning labels represent an "interesting natural experiment" that "may offer an effective new strategy to complement existing, potentially powerful interventions like marketing bans and sugary drinks duties" and that "proposals may herald a tipping point in public attitudes and political feasibilities" and that "investors, industrialists, and international health groups will all be watching closely".
Watching to see if they need to move to South America, that is.