A lobbying organisation in the US has called for government health warnings to be placed on soft drinks. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) made the call yesterday (13 July), based on claims that teenagers in the country are drinking more high-calorie soft drinks than ever before. The amount of diet soda drinks consumed by teenagers in the US is on the wane, the Center added.

"Just as the soaring rates of obesity have shocked Americans, so should the increasing consumption by teenagers of one of the causes of obesity," CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said. "What was once a rare treat in a small serving is now served up morning, noon, and night, virtually everywhere Americans happen to be. How did a solution of high-fructose corn syrup, water, and artificial flavours come to be the default beverage?"

In a petition filed with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and supported by the American Dental Hygienists Association, the American Society of Bariatric Surgeons, the Consumer Federation of America and the National Center for Health Education, CSPI asked the agency to require a series of rotating health notices on containers of all non-diet soft drinks-carbonated and non-carbonated-containing more than 13 grams of refined sugars per 12 ounces.

Among the messages the CSPI would want on the notices are:

• The US Government recommends that you drink less (non-diet) soda to help prevent weight gain, tooth decay, and other health problems.

• To help protect your waistline and your teeth, consider drinking diet sodas or water.

• Drinking soft drinks instead of milk or calcium-fortified beverages may increase your risk of brittle bones (osteoporosis).

The CSPI also said that caffeinated drinks should bear a notice that reads "This drink contains x grams of caffeine, which is a mildly addictive stimulant drug. Not appropriate for children."

Speaking to Reuters, Susan Neely, head of the American Beverage Association, rejected the calls. "Individuals, not the government, are in the best position to make the food and beverage choices that are right for them," she told the news service.