Having safe and clean, water to drink is considered to be a human right, so it may come as a shock to learn that more than a million Californians don’t get drinkable water in their homes. And when drinking water isn’t readily available, struggling families often turn to cheap, sugary drinks instead. However, when a child drinks just one of those drinks a day, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes skyrockets. On January 7th, renowned chef and food educator Jamie Oliver returned to Sacramento as part of a continuing effort to reverse those statistics.
A press conference, held on the south steps of the State Capitol, began with an introduction by Daniel Zingale, Senior Vice President of the California Endowment. With an inflatable soda can labelled “Diabetes” in the background, poet Obasi Davis followed with an impassioned spoken word on the dangers of this “tasty poison.” Davis warned onlookers of the sinister side of soda, backed by corporations taking advantage of impressionable youth.
After Davis, Jamie Oliver, host of Food Network’s “The Naked Chef,” stepped up to the microphones and cameras. Oliver’s focus was on the appalling lack of clean water in many parts of the state, not to mention the country. Together with the final speaker, State Senator Bill Monning, they highlighted an idea that would warn consumers of the dangers of soda in the same way as the Surgeon General’s warning on tobacco products. Their stance is that the consumer has the right to know the consequences of drinking so-called “junk drinks”, given the fact that they are widespread and have been linked to what Monning has called a “public health epidemic.”
The proposed label would be simple: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.” To the speakers at Wednesday’s press conference, as well as many others, warning labels on junk drinks are an effective strategy, or at the very least a good start. Even simpler changes, like changes measurements on food packaging from grams to teaspoons, can make it easier for people to understand what they are putting into their bodies.
One of the more distressing points Oliver made was the fact that while over a thousand Americans have had a leg amputation as a result of injury from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, over 70,000 people in California alone have had a leg amputation from complications of diabetes in the same time frame.
“This is a third world problem in the most important economy in the world,” said Jamie Oliver of the lack of clean water in the U.S. Bringing that water to the millions of people who still need it will be a challenge, but in the meantime, making it easier for them to make healthy choices can make a world of difference too. To speakers Zingale, Davis, Monning, and Oliver, the fight against “Big Soda” begins with knowledge, knowledge that the public needs to take responsibility for their health choices.