Legislative Memo

Ken Pokalsky
Vice President
T 518.465.7511


S.6435 (Rivera)/A.2320-B (Dinowitz)



Beverage “Health Warnings”



April 26, 2016


The Business Council opposes this legislation that would require a “safety warning” on certain beverage and drink mix packages, as well as additional postings in food service establishments. Specifically, this bill would amend the Agriculture and Markets Law by requiring beverages with more than seventy-five calories per twelve fluid ounces that had added caloric sweeteners have a health warning label. A similar warning would be required on drink mix containers, and be on display by retailers that sell beverages in unsealed containers. If approved, this bill would apply to affected packages and retailers one year after its adoption. Non-compliance would be punishable with civil penalties up to $500.

We have a number of concerns with this proposal, which we see as imposing new compliance burdens on business while producing little if anything in the way of public benefits.

First and foremost, we have long-standing concerns with state-specific mandates being applied to products made and distributed for regional or national markets. Due to the interstate natures of this process, state specific laws, such as proposed in S.6435/A.2320-B, hinder interstate commerce, as it would preclude the movement of non-state compliant products into New York State when necessary to meet sales demands. This would impact not just product manufacturers, but distributors, retailers and container manufacturers as well.

Second, nutritional labeling is already mandated. Current federal Food and Drug Administration regulations impose general food labeling requirements that apply to sugar-sweetened beverages, covering net quantity of contents, ingredient lists, and nutrition labeling including calories. Congress has recognized that state and local labeling requirements that differ from federal requirements would create contradictory directions and warnings, confuse consumers and undermine public confidence in the federal government's regulatory system.

Third, and perhaps most important, this legislation will not have a meaningful impact on consumer behavior or health outcomes. As the beverage industry and others have pointed out, obesity and diabetes are complicated issues, involving diet, activity and other factors. We question whether mandating a “safety warning” on a single product category would have any meaningful impact on this broad public health issue. Experience suggests otherwise; that reducing consumption of a single category of food or beverage is not an effective strategy to address adverse health outcomes.

For these reasons, we oppose approval of S.6435 (Rivera)/A.2320-B (Dinowitz).