California gets a failing grade from the state’s small-business owners. Seventy percent rate the state’s business climate for small businesses as poor to very poor. They say reducing overregulation of small businesses should be a top priority of politicians in Sacramento.

Unfortunately, politicians in Sacramento aren’t listening.

To the contrary, the state Legislature is considering a new law, SB 1000, that would bury grocers, restaurant owners and other vendors selling sweetened drinks in even more regulations.

The bill stipulates that a sugar-sweetened beverage may not be sold in California unless the container bears the following safety warning: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

The bill is a complicated and confusing web of red tape. Beverages like soda would require warning labels, as would most soy milks, although beverages made with cow, goat or sheep’s milk would be exempt. In other words, chocolate soy milk would require a warning label but chocolate cow’s milk would not – even though some animal milk products contain as much sugar as soy, almond or rice milks.

The proposed law becomes even more confusing when applied to fruit juices and teas. Popular brands of 100 percent apple and orange juices, for example, would not require warning labels. But many ethnic beverages sold in the diverse markets across Southern California, such as lychee drinks, green tea with jasmine flower or horchatas, would require warning labels – even though those beverages are imported and not produced in California.

What makes this proposed law so bad for businesses in California is that it would place the burden of knowing which beverages should be labeled directly on the business owner. More than 500 beverages would require labels and the number is growing as imported products from independent and craft producers from abroad are added to the list. Failure to comply would result in a fine of up to $500 per day per product. This is immensely worrisome for businesses in food and beverage retail and service industries that operate on razor-thin profit margins.

The enormous number of small mom-and-pop retailers in the L.A. region will also be especially burdened by the complicated inclusions and exclusions for the labels as well as sign postings that would become mandatory should SB 1000 become law. Hundreds of Korean groceries in Los Angeles, Vietnamese markets in Orange County, and neighborhood grocers and restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley will not only have to keep complicated records of the purchase orders and sales going back two years, but they will also have to ensure that all ethnic drinks imported for their customers are appropriately labeled.

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