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9th Circuit Blocks San Francisco Beverage Label Ordinance


The full bench of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously blocked a San Francisco ordinance requiring health-warning labels on sugar-containing beverages. The intent was to advise consumers that sodas containing sugar are injurious to health, contribute to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. San Francisco imposed a tax on high-sugar containing beverages amounting to one cent per ounce, effective January 1, 20148.


The Court ruled that the warnings were contrary to plaintiff’s First Amendment rights by “chilling protective speech”. The Court considered that beverage manufacturers would suffer irreparable harm if the law was implemented. A three-judge panel set aside the law in 2017 stating that it “unfairly targeted one group of products.” The city of San Francisco appealed the decision to the full bench of the 9th Circuit.

The American Beverage Association has operated under a preliminary injunction deferring the labeling law since 2015.


The decision of the 9th Circuit that frequently favors consumers, the environment and public authorities, continues precedents relating to advertising claims as “speech”. The verdict is potentially significant to the egg-production industry since is is possible that in the future that some jurisdiction might impose warning labels on eggs based on saturated fat or cholesterol. Although well meaning, mandatory warnings in the absence of clear scientific evidence are deleterious and represent an extension of the “nanny state”.