Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Letters: Alcohol Labels for Consumers

By William Brand
Thursday, July 14th, 2005 at 10:45 am in Uncategorized.

Dear William Brand

I’ve been reading your column in the Oakland Tribune for a few months now. I keep wondering why it is that some brewers list the alcohol content on their label, and some don’t. You also will list the alcohol content of some brews in your column, and not list them for others.
Just curious…
Zoe

Hi Zoe…I simply forget to post the ABV sometimes. Occasionally, I write about a beer with no posted ABV. I need to be more consistent. About why some print ABV and some do not. For years, posting alcohol content was not allowed by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms. It became legal a few years ago.
Art Resnick, Director of Public and Media Affairs at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in Washington, D.C. said the change simply allowed brewers to list the alcohol content of their beer if they chose.

“Some states have low alcohol beers (According to Brewery Age, six states sell only 3.2 beer — that is, beer that is 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, 4 percent alcohol by volume — Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Utah). Those states require beers to list alcohol content. For comparison, your average Bud contains about 5 percent alcohol by volume.

Dear William: Thanks so much for your reply. I think that posting the alcohol content for each beer would be as good of an idea as it is for wine producers. Your thoughts?
Zoe

Zoe, I can’t imagine why a brewer would not list alcohol content. It’s an important piece of consumer information. I’m for it. In May, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau asked for comments on proposed `consumer health labeling’ for alcohol containers. Comment deadline was June 28, 2005. But so far, there’s no news.
The bureau request came 18 months after the National Consumers League, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and other groups petitioned the feds to update booze labels.

Among other things, the Alcohol Facts label would disclose:

–Alcohol content and standard servings. Labels would list the number of drinks per container and the amount of alcohol in a standard serving. The label would also state the U.S. Dietary Guidelines’ definition of moderate drinking as no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.

–Calorie information. Labels would list calories per serving so consumers concerned about excess weight or obesity could put alcoholic beverages in the context of their diet.

–Ingredients. Labels would list ingredients so consumers can compare beverages, and so the seven million Americans with food allergies can know if an alcoholic beverage contains milk, eggs, gluten, or other allergens. Currently, sulfites and Yellow Dye No. 5 are the only ingredients that are required to be listed.

In a media statement announcing the petition, George Hacker, director of CSPI’s Alcohol Policies Project, said this:

“It seems silly that a bottle of lemonade has to list
its ingredients, but a bottle of hard lemonade
doesn’t. Our proposed label would let consumers
see exactly what’s in various brands of beers,
wine, and hard liquors.”

Gee would that mean a new beer category: Rice beer. What do you think Anheuser-Busch?

Here’s a link to a biased, but factual report from Join Together, an anti-alcohol coalition, on the government’s current labeling efforts.

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