Nutrition Facts Labels on Alcohol Products?January 26, 2011
I know that I would love to know just how many calories are in that bottle of beer I’m drinking or in that glass of wine I’m about to pour, wouldn’t you? Health-conscious consumers are all about reading to see how many calories, how much sugar, or how many carbs, are in the things we are buying including alcohol products. That’s why it’s surprising that alcohol products don’t bear nutrition labels – yet.
Guy Smith, executive vice president in North America for Diageo supports this proposed labeling initiative. Diageo is the leading seller of distilled spirits, wine, and beer in the world. The message that Smith sends is “In the year 2011, it’s sort of bizarre that alcohol’s the only consumable product sold in the United States that you can’t tell what’s inside the bottle.”
What Is Being Proposed for Alcohol Labels?
Right now, this proposal is before the US federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which is responsible for overseeing alcohol labeling. It is proposed that alcohol labels list nutritional facts information such as calories, carbohydrates, serving size and alcohol percentage per serving. The proposal does not ask that ingredients be listed.
This proposal began many years ago back in 2003 by a coalition of consumers and public health advocates. Diageo has been on board with their support since 2003 and this past December submitted a statement asking for Tax and Trade Bureau officials to make a ruling.
The Tax and Trade Bureau’s spokesman, Tom Hogue, has stated that the agency is currently working on the proposed issue but since it is a complicated one it is taking some time and he doesn’t foresee a quick solution for the hot topic.
What are the current labeling laws?
Currently wine, liquor, and beer manufacturers aren’t required to list ingredients or nutritional information but are required to list substances that people may be susceptible to: sulfites, FD&C Yellow No. 5, and aspartame.
For wine, labels must list the percentage of alcohol content if the product contains 14% or more alcohol by volume. Wines with 7% to 14% alcohol by volume may either list the alcohol content or label the wine with terms “light” or “table.” For beer, “Light” beers are only required to list calories and carbs. Liquor must list alcohol content by volume and proof number.
Alcohol Industry at Odds
This potential labeling standard may have the support of Diageo, but not everyone else is so quick to jump on board. The Beer Institute in Washington, D.C. supports the idea of labeling alcohol with calories, carbs, protein, and fat content to go along with alcohol by volume. They do, though, disagree about having to define a serving size in the measurement of fluid ounces, for example 12 oz. for beer, 5 oz. for wine, 1.5 oz of 80-proof liquor. They argue that you may get more than 1.5 oz of liquor in a cocktail due to other ingredients in the cocktail, or due to the accuracy of the person making the drink. Diageo’s Smith disagrees with this argument as he thinks consumers should be able to have a point of reference to base their decisions on and to know what to expect.
The Wine Institute in San Francisco, the advocacy group for California wineries and affiliated businesses, has asked that the labeling standard be voluntary for the wine industry. Gladys Horiuchi of The Wine Institute says that if the labeling standard does become mandatory “the industry requests that the proposal pose no great financial burden to implement.” Since there are so many different varieties and vintages of wine, the industry is asking for generic labels with calorie and carb counts instead of having to have every individual wine analyzed. “The Wine Institute has proposed that wine be allowed to report standard values for all of it’s products” says Horiuchi, “for example standard nutritional values for a five-ounce serving of wine would have 120 calories, 0 fats and 0 carbohydrates.” Along with this leeway on calorie and carb counts, they also want the freedom to choose the format and style of the nutritional label. They would rather not have the traditional nutrition facts panel on their wine labels.
Andy Watkins of Lakeland Winery in Syracuse, New York told me he’s not really concerned with how labeling laws will effect small to medium sized wineries, “I don’t think the nutrition facts label will become a reality. When you look at the website Self Nutritional Data, it shows the nutritional facts for a 5 oz. glass of dry red table wine – there are none to speak of.” Watkins also said that in 5 years of owning a winery, no one has ever mentioned “Nutrition” to him in the same conversation with wine consumption or wine making.
Right now, it’s unclear as to when the Tax and Trade Bureau will make a decision, but we will keep you posted as information becomes available to us. If becomes a mandatory standard, or even voluntary standard, to label alcohol with nutrition facts, QuickLabel can assist you.
With a QuickLabel color label printer you will have the flexibility of instantly being able to comply with any new labeling rules that are decided upon. If you order custom printed alcohol labels from our QuickPrint service, we’ll re-design your labels to include necessary alcohol nutrition labeling facts as they become available. Just tell us how many re-designed labels you want, and we’ll take care of making them for you.
More Resources About Nutrition Facts on Alcohol Labels:
Posted in Labeling Standards