I met a guy the other night at a Brickskeller beer tasting who works at the Beer Institute. He told me there is a proposed federal regulation that would require nutrition labels for beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages.
I just found a McLatchy Newspapers story confirming it. The labels would list calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates, percent of alcohol by volume, and “Serving Facts.”
I like the idea. The Beer Institute doesn’t. They say: “The alcohol content in most beers is in a very narrow range, and consumers are generally aware of that fact.”
Sorry Beer Institute, as much as I love the fact that there is something called the Beer Institute (I even used your library while I was doing research for my book — thank you very much for that!) your argument on this is lame. The beers in my world range from as low as 4.3% (or so) to as much as 20% ABV. I can go to the Dogfish Head alehouse in Gaithersburg, MD not far from my house and choose from beers such as the 4.3% Lawnmower Light, 7.2% Indian Brown, 9% Imperial IPA, or 11% Immort Ale – more than twice the alcoholic content of the Lawnmower Light.
From what I understand, the regulation would not require that vitamins and minerals be included on the label. The guy from the Beer Institute says it would actually be prohibited because “they” don’t want people to know anything that might suggest that beer is good for you. I believe him. Treasury Department officials were quoted in the McLatchy article saying that the proposed label “could provide a constant, low-cost reminder that alcohol consumption adds generally empty, discretionary calories to the diet.”
And if you look at the label (left) proposed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), you’d think that all a beer contains is calories and alcohol. CSPI has long espoused the dangers of alcohol and is what many beer supporters would refer to as a neo-prohibitionist organization. I like some of the work they do, including this awesome table of alcohol industry donations to members of congress, but their overall attitude toward alcohol is that it is ruining America.
One thing I don’t like about the proposed regulation is that when it passes (there is little chance it won’t) it will affect small brewers disproportionately. The costs of measuring these nutritional contents and redesigning labels will hurt them more than it hurts big brewers. Perhaps that’s why Diageo actually launched a campaign in support of the rule while small brewers seem to be generally opposed.
Speaking of nutrition labels, I like the one used for International Buy Nothing Day.