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Alcohol industry can't agree about issue of nutrition labels

on 31/12/10 at 10:54 am


The beer industry argues that serving sizes for hard liquor are meaningless, depending on who's doing the pouring.

New Year’s revelers who plan to belly up to the bar but also resolve to drop 10 pounds in 2011 face a hurdle: calories, carbohydrates and other nutritional facts are nowhere to be found on a bottle of booze.

In fact, a debate has raged for seven years between federal regulators, consumer groups and the alcohol industry over just how much drinkers should know about the contents of alcoholic beverages: They are among the few consumable products that do not carry a nutrition label.

A light beer may have as few as 95 calories, while a Long Island iced tea, composed of equal parts vodka, tequila, triple sec, rum and gin, contains hundreds. A diabetic monitoring carbohydrates has no way to know the effects of a couple of stiff drinks. And those who want to avoid artificial additives can’t tell by looking at a label if their suds are naturally golden, or chemically enhanced.

In 2003, two consumer groups petitioned the federal government to make alcohol producers go beyond the disclosures that have been required for stronger spirits since Prohibition. Back then, lawmakers required liquor manufacturers to cite the “proof” of their alcohol to protect consumers from being duped into buying watered-down booze.

The latest effort goes far beyond that requirement. It would make bottlers of beer, wine and spirits apply an “Alcohol Facts” label to their products, similar to the “Nutrition Facts” label found on most foods.

All parties agreed in principle that drinkers deserve basic information to make informed choices about beverages.

But the harmony gave way to a brawl between beer makers and the distilled spirits industry over how to define the average “serving size” of a drink – a standard way of measuring caloric content.

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