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 Americans, on average, consuming between 18 and 23 teaspoons -- about 300 to 400 calories -- of added sugars each day, according to the petition.
Many teens and young adults consume even more sugar than the average. Some get at least 25 percent of their calories from added sugar, according to the 2007-2008 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The CSPI petition notes that cities around the country have taken note of the problem and have acted. In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is capping restaurant soda serving sizes at 16 ounces -- a move that has met with considerable resistance from some who believe it tramples individuals' rights.
For more on obesity, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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