ASIAN-Americans living, working and attending school in California should be a major force to be reckoned with in terms of its collective purchasing power and intellectual power. As a community, Asian-owned businesses continue to be one of the strongest segments of California’s economy.
According to the latest census data, the number of U.S. businesses owned by people of Asian origin increased 40.4 percent to 1.5 million between 2002 and 2007. Of those businesses, nearly 600,000 operate in California.
API businesses send billions of dollars in tax revenue to the state each year. Our restaurants and grocers help form the fabric of local communities. And our cultural events bring together families and generations from all backgrounds and ethnicities.
So one would think that the elected officials in Sacramento would pay attention to the interests of Asian-owned businesses.
In a matter of weeks, the California state legislature will consider a proposal that would prohibit people and businesses from selling sweetened beverages that don’t have specified warning labels.
The proposal, Senate Bill 1000, is called the “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Safety Warning Act” and would require products to carry labels that read: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, iabetes, and tooth decay.”
Restaurants that serve fountain drinks would be required by law to post warning signs where customers can read them. Businesses with vending machines would face similar requirements. Failure to comply with SB 1000 would be punishable by a civil penalty of $500. The proposal adds up to a lot of red tape.
The goal of the proposed measure is to reduce obesity and related diseases. Its supporters have good intentions. Unfortunately, good intentions can lead to unintended consequences.
It is the unintended consequences of SB 1000 that should have Asian business owners concerned – particularly those businesses that sell imported beverages likeRamune soda and certain fruit beverages like mango and coconut drinks, which contain sugar. Those products, even though they are not produced in California, would require warning labels on the cans and bottles in order to be sold in California.
It’s not clear if the elected officials in Sacramento considered this fact before writing the bill or if any of them had consulted the Asian business community to avoid this type of unintended consequences.
Government mandates to put warning labels on our beverages will do nothing to decrease obesity in California or teach people about healthy lifestyles. Rather, the labels will be costly to business and expose many restaurants and grocers to civil penalties.
The Asian business community in California should come together in opposition to SB 1000 so the Asian businesses, and all Californian businesses, can continue to enjoy the opportunity that have allowed Asian businesses to grow and prosper at such extraordinary levels in recent years.
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Mr. Dennis Huang is the Executive Director of the Asian Business Association of Los Angeles.