Alcoholic beverages may soon carry nutrition labels

Written by on June 17, 2013 in News - 4 Comments

If you use the fact that alcoholic beverages don’t list things like calorie content on their labels as an excuse to pretend that alcoholic beverages don’t actually contain things like calories, you may soon be out of luck.

The US Treasury Department, which regulates alcohol, recently approved the use of nutrition labels on beer, wine and liquor.  This is the first time alcoholic beverages have been permitted to list nutritional information–including serving size, calories and fat–on their packaging.

The ruling is temporary while the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB) considers a final decision as to whether or not alcohol will be required to carry nutritional information in the future. Until this ruling, alcoholic beverages were not permitted to carry nutrition labels; now, they may voluntarily do so.

“The idea here is we are trying to make it easy for the industry to communicate this with consumers if they want to do so, and if their consumers want them to do it,” Tom Hogue of the TTB told the Associated Press.

The new ruling is controversial within the alcohol industry. Many breweries worry about drawing attention to the caloric content in their beer. Likewise, wineries may be concerned about cluttering up their sleek labels. Some smaller companies are also worried about the expense of nutrition labels.

“Every year, the whole grapes I bring in from California to make my wines will be different based on the weather conditions in California that year,” said Kelly Harvey from Signature Wines of Ohio. “It would simply be prohibitively expensive to have each vintage analyzed to obtain accurate nutritional information.”

Other companies, however, welcome the change in policy. Large liquor companies are looking to advertise the low calorie and carbohydrate content in their product on their nutrition labels. The policy also represents a boon for organically produced alcohol, as those companies will find it easier to present that information on their packaging.

This is a guest post by Emily Baselt. Emily is a writer, blogger, and professional bar-goer who writes about politics by day and drinking by night.

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4 Comments on "Alcoholic beverages may soon carry nutrition labels"

  1. Keith June 17, 2013 at 3:48 PM · Reply

    Here is a post I put in an industry forum: I don’t look at wine as food. If I thought it were I wouldn’t be doing this. The whole process is nearly the opposite of food. Nearly everything you put in a wine is not really an ingredient or conglomeration of ingredients like in food. Everything is either gone, transformed, or in different amount or form than when the wine is started. We are essentially after the waste products and growth medium of the process and the result is a living beverage where even the levels of free SO2 are variable and only temporarily quantifiable. I look at wine as the opposite of food, which is why it goes so well with food. The calories in a dry wine are from alcohol which is not a fat , nor a carbohydrate, nor protein. The body will burn the calories but will not store them. If it does store calories it would only be because the liver will process alcohol ahead of fat, which is why in a diabetic diet they consider wine a fat replacement. Free SO2 in the wine will go in to the blood and act the same as any other anti oxidant, so likely its presence is more positive to health of most people if they aren’t one of the super rare asthamtics that could have a reaction. I do think sulfites are an ancient and ideal substance for the stabilaization of wine. To my thinking it just doesn’t matter and the information even if you do have it is for all practical purposes useless, even if someone thinks it is useful. Just about every diabetic I have that comes in that tells me they are diabetic buys one of my sweet wines, knowing it has about 6.5 % sugar after I tell them. They do not care, they are going to buy and enjoy what they like. If it came to adding (which is not legal) something like aspartame (a highly refined manufactured molecule) I would be all for its addition being put on the label. Anything else I’ve seen on the list of legal additions it doesn’t matter. The list of what can be added is much more limited than the food industry. There are exceptions with some formula sort of wines, but they have to be approved in advance and you usually only see those sort of things in a very small winery making “country” wines or some sort of things flavored with chocolate and the like. Its not like working with the FDA, labels need to be approved in advance. The FDA will simply trounce on you if it is wrong afterwards if you are caught in error. This nonsensical voluntary nutritional label addition for alcoholic beverages which must be done as their sample indicates is a new exception to that regulation. Some forms of lower level alcoholic products that are conglomerations of alcohol with a number of other addtions already are under FDA sort of regulation. Traditional wine as such is not and should stay that way. Otherwise I would likely be the first of many to close up shop. I have my basis of beliefs and principles I will not violate. This sort of labeling you seem to want would do it as I would see it as an assault on my craft. I even detest the voluntary nonsense.

  2. Keith June 17, 2013 at 3:53 PM · Reply

    Another aspect is large companies love to use regulation to stifle the competition from smaller businesses.

  3. Ryan October 11, 2013 at 11:43 AM · Reply

    Ciders have sported nutrition info for a while now, any insight as to why they were permitted while other beverages were not?

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