Tax and Trade Bureau Considers Alcohol Labeling
SAN FRANCISCO - A proposal presently before the federal Tax and Trade Bureau - the agency with authority over alcohol labels - is seeking that alcohol producers list nutrition information such as calories, carbohydrates, serving size and alcohol per serving on spirits, beer and wine, the Associated Press reports. Guy Smith, executive vice president in North America for Diageo, a distilled spirits, beer and wine company, favors the move.
"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," Smith said.
Many industry insiders do not share Smith's enthusiasm for the proposal.
The trade association Beer Institute supports listing calories, carbs, protein and fat content, but opposes defining serving size by fluid ounces of pure alcohol (i.e. 12 ounces for a beer, 5 ounces for a glass of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor), maintaining that the amount of liquor one consumes in a cocktail depends on the drink ingredients and accuracy of the bartender.
At the San Francisco-based Wine Institute, officials are asking that any labeling requirements be on a voluntary basis only. (Smith of Diageo supports that qualification, too.) However, if labeling is made mandatory, then the Wine Institute is seeking accommodations, such as being allowed to generalize calorie- and carb-counts on wine, rather than needing to test each vintage separately. Additionally, they want the option of choosing the style of label, such as a thin strip-style label rather than the much larger box format that appears on other foods and drinks.
"There shouldn't be a significant cost impact on wineries," said Wendell Lee, general counsel for the institute.
It's uncertain when federal officials might rule. Agency spokesperson Tom Hogue said the Tax and Trade Bureau is working on the issue but acknowledged it's a complicated one that is not easily resolved.
Current labeling law is complex. Wine, beer and liquor manufacturers aren't required to list ingredients, though they must list substances people might be sensitive to, such as sulfites, FD&C Yellow No. 5 and aspartame.
Wines with 14 percent or more alcohol by volume must list alcohol content, while wines between 7 percent and 14 percent alcohol by volume may list alcohol content or put "light" or "table" on the label.
"Light" beers must list calorie and carbohydrate content only. Liquor must list alcohol content by volume and may also list proof.
"Tax and Trade Bureau Considers Alcohol Labeling." NACS Online. January 25, 2011
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