Michael F. Jacobson, executive director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, said the FDA should determine a safe level of added sugars for beverages as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce Americans' dangerously high sugar consumption.
A typical 20-ounce bottle of soda contains about 16 teaspoons of sugars from high-fructose corn syrup -- twice the daily limit recommended by the American Heart Association. The Heart Association advises consuming no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugars per day for women and no more than 9 teaspoons for men.
CSPI and the scientists supporting the petition said despite the concerns over artificial sweeteners, diet sodas are safer than today's full-calorie sodas. A gradual change to safer drinks will be made easier by the use of new high-potency sweeteners such as rebiana, which is made from the stevia plant, and "sweetness enhancers" being developed by major manufacturers, Jacobson said.
"As currently formulated, Coke, Pepsi, and other sugar-based drinks are unsafe for regular human consumption," Jacobson said in a statement. "The FDA should require the beverage industry to re-engineer their sugary products over several years, making them safer for people to consume, and less conducive to disease."
In a 54-page regulatory petition filed with the FDA, the CSPI detailed the substantial scientific evidence that added sugars, especially in drinks, causes weight gain, obesity, and chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and gout.