Alcohol Labels May Have to Start Going by the Nutritional Numbers


Pressure is mounting worldwide for alcoholic beverage producers to modify labels to make the health and nutritional information more clear to consumers. From Australia (above) to America, it’s a hot button issue that will impact alcoholic beverage brands worldwide this year.[more]

A proposal to include nutritional information on the labels of alcoholic beverages in the U.S. is currently being considered by a federal agency, but alcohol producers are mixed in their support of such a measure.

USA Today notes that the Distilled Spirits Council, which is beginning to see sales rebound from recessionary lows, supports the measure to list information such as calories, carbohydrates, serving size and alcohol per serving on labels.

Diageo, the world’s largest alcohol brands company, has long been a supporter of the proposal, which was put forward in 2003, and issued a statement in December calling on the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to make a ruling. In keeping with its corporate social responsibility efforts, it supports voluntary compliance, as does the California-based Wine Institute. 

The Wine Institute wants calorie and carbohydrate counts on wine labels to be generic, rather than for each wine to have to be analyzed, and they want to be able to choose the style of the label rather than have a uniformly imposed one.

The Beer Institute, however, opposes the proposal’s definition of serving sizes as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor, saying that liquor measurements may vary according to where and how they are served.

The National Consumers League, meanwhile, last month issued a press release accusing the TTB of dragging its feet on the issue.

Last week, the TTAB released an updated rules for the U.S. wine industry, outlining viticulture appellations and bottle labels while backing down on a handful of proposals that were met with unified opposition by the wine industry.

“By and large, we’re very satisfied with the outcome,” Rex Stults, industry relations director for the Napa Valley Vintners Association, commented.

The U.S. is not the only country that is mulling over the idea of alcohol labels. It’s also being debated in Australia, for instance, where a new high-profile report on labeling laws that will soon be released there is believed to recommend requiring alcohol companies to list nutritional information on their products.

In the U.K., a recently released Conservative Party paper proposes changing labeling for alcohol – but with more of an emphasis on making the alcohol content more transparent and easy to understand in an attempt to curb alcohol abuse, rather than on providing nutritional information.

No word yet on when the issue might be decided in the U.S., but in a nation where two-thirds of adults are either overweight or obese, the biggest reason for label changes will likely be to give consumers a more accurate idea of all those calories they are consuming.

It’s certainly easier to ignore the calories in that six-pack when the numbers aren’t staring you in the face. Ignorance may be bliss, but in this case,  it’s not very good for the waistline.


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