"The third thing is to educate consumers to choose healthier foods and beverages," he said.
The FDA classifies high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose and other sugars as "generally recognized as safe," Jacobson said.
"What we're asking the FDA to do is to modify those regulations and set some limits in beverages," he said.
In the 1980s, the FDA twice committed to looking at limiting sugar levels in foods if new scientific evidence found sugar levels were harmful to the public, or if sugar consumption rose, Jacobson said.
"We are reminding the FDA of that and saying you have an obligation to revisit this and protect the public's health," he said.
It will take years before any action is taken, but that gives industry time to adjust to using less sugar in drinks, Jacobson said.
Jacobson said economic issues shouldn't be part of the FDA's consideration. "There are winners and losers for any kind of a regulation. The sugar industry and the corn industry [which supplies ingredients for high-fructose corn syrup] would be losers, but the soft drink industry might be winners," he said.
The makers of no-calorie sweeteners "would probably make out like bandits," Jacobson said.
The CSPI hopes new sweeteners -- such as rebiana, made from the stevia plant -- will replace high-calorie sugar, making drinks healthier.
Although some people are concerned that these sweeteners may be harmful, Jacobson said they are still a better option than sugar.
"The FDA considers all these sweeteners perfectly safe," Jacobson said. "We think the certain harm that's coming from the 16 teaspoons of sugar in a 20-ounce bottle of soda greatly outweighs the speculative risk from artificial sweeteners," he
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