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Beware of soda
Group is petitioning for warning labels on soda to alert consumers to the dangers of sugary drinks. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. consumer group Wednesday called for cigarette-style warnings on soft drinks to alert consumers that too much of the sugary beverages can make people fat and cause other health problems.

People who overindulge in soft drinks are also more likely to develop diabetes and tooth decay, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said in a petition to the Food and Drug Administration.

The warnings are especially needed to counter the growing number of young people who drink soda, said the center.

"Soda pop used to be an occasional treat. Now it's an everyday beverage," CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson said, adding that it is all calories and no nutrients.

The latest government data from 2002 shows teenage boys drink an average of two 12-ounce cans of soda a day compared with about 1.33 cans for teenage girls, Jacobson said.

Food and beverage industry groups rejected the call for warnings, saying obesity has complex causes and packages already list calories and ingredients.

"Individuals, not the government, are in the best position to make the food and beverage choices that are right for them," said Susan Neeley, head of the American Beverage Association (ABA).

Others, including the industry-funded Center for Consumer Freedom, said regulating sodas would limit consumer choice.

Some firms have reintroduced smaller packages, but CSPI said cheap prices and multiple-serving bottles attract consumers.

Government warnings are needed to "push the public to a healthier diet as aggressively as the soft drink industry, the fast food industry and others push people in the other direction," Jacobson said.

Coca-Cola Co. (Research) and Cadbury Schweppes Plc did not return calls for comment. PepsiCo Inc. (Research) referred calls to the ABA.

FDA officials could not be reached for comment.

Coke and Pepsi are in a calorie battle, click here for more.  Top of page

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