"We have an obesity epidemic on our hands, with two-thirds of Americans obese or overweight, and that should take precedence over smaller concerns," Jacobson said.
One industry representative took issue with the new petition.
"As we continue to debate the root causes of our nation's obesity issue, we need to rely on science and facts, not look for quick fixes that draw focus away from developing real solutions to a complex problem," said J. Patrick Mohan, the interim president of the Corn Refiners Association, which represents high-fructose corn syrup manufacturers.
And the American Beverage Association, which represents soft drink makers, said its industry is already making changes.
"Today about 45 percent of all non-alcoholic beverages purchased have zero calories and the overall average number of calories per beverage serving is down 23 percent since 1998," the ABA said in a statement issued Wednesday. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Americans are consuming 37 percent fewer calories from sugar in soft drinks and other sweetened beverages than in 2000," the group added.
"Everyone has a role to play in reducing obesity levels -- a fact completely ignored in this petition," the ABA said. "This is why the beverage industry has worked to increase options and information for consumers."
Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center, said he joined the CSPI effort and is "proud to have signed the petition."
"The evidence that an excess of added dietary sugar, in any of its many guises, is a major contributor to the prevailing public health ills of our time is now essentially incontrovertible," he said. "It stands to reason that lowering those levels will help in efforts to reduce the levels of obesity, diabetes and other chronic disease."
Soda and other sugary drinks are the single biggest source of calories in the U.S. diet, with American
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