Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Consumer groups up pressure for new alcohol labels

By William Brand
Friday, December 12th, 2008 at 12:01 pm in Uncategorized.

I’m a big Obama supporter, but a statement released today in the name of four national consumer groups scares me badly. They are demanding new labels on alcoholic drinks, showing information like calories, fat, etc.

This is something one group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, has been pushing for years and there’s a federal proposal in the works to that.  Personally, it seems like a good idea, but what bothers me is their tone.  Consider:

  • During the season of eating, drinking and being merry, alcoholic beverages are the only consumable products not required to carry labels listing such basic information as the amount of calories and the alcohol content per serving.  To change this situation, four leading public interest groups — Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America, National Consumers League and Shape Up America! — want the Obama transition team and incoming Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to move quickly to modernize alcohol labels – something that has not happened in more than 30 years.
  • At a meeting with members of the Treasury Department Transition Team yesterday, the organizations delivered a letter to Treasury Secretary-Designate Geithner urging the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to act now to issue a final regulation requiring “meaningful” labeling of alcohol beverages, including alcohol content per serving, calories per serving, serving size, number of servings per container and the definition of a “standard drink.”  Coinciding with the fifth anniversary of an unanswered petition originally sent to TTB on December 16, 2003, the letter summarizes the consensus among nutrition, medical and substance abuse experts that ready access to labeling information is an important tool for reducing alcohol abuse, drunk driving, and the many diseases attributable to excessive alcohol intake.

Me again. Holy hell.   It’s not what they’re saying, it’s the tone that worries me. I wonder what their long-term goal is? A new prohibitoin on alcohol?  Come on President-elect Obama, let’s don’t go there.

Comments anyone?

For the record, here’s the rest of their screed….

  • Because the current Administration has not acted on this matter, the four organizations also issued information all Americans should know about alcohol as we head into the Holidays:
  • When it comes to drinking alcohol, the old adage is true: It doesn’t matter what you drink, it’s really how much that counts.
  • One of the most important tips about responsible drinking is to know how much you are drinking. So, remember, 12 ounces of regular beer has the same amount of alcohol as five ounces of wine and an ounce and a half of distilled spirits.
  • Alcohol affects women differently than men. Besides producing less of the enzyme responsible for breaking down alcohol, women generally have a lower percentage of natural body water than men, which means alcohol levels are more concentrated and women are likely to feel the effects (including the onset of alcohol-related diseases) sooner. In light of these differences, the Dietary Guidelines recommends that women consume less alcohol — up to one standard drink a day while men are advised to limit their consumption to two alcohol drinks a day.
  • Sometimes the wisest decision is not to drink. This is the case if you are younger than the minimum legal drinking age, pregnant, driving or operating machinery, or simply cannot control your drinking.
  • In many cases, alcohol and medications don’t mix. Always read the label to determine if the prescription medicine or over-the-counter drug carries a specific warning about consuming alcohol.
  • If you are hosting a party, don’t over-serve alcohol and keep an eye out for anyone who may have had too much to drink and is planning to drive home. If necessary, take their keys and call a taxi. Have plenty of non-alcoholic beverage choices available.The obvious tip that everybody knows but sometimes forgets: before you go out, plan how you are going to get home. Designate a driver, have a taxi number, and have money ready to pay the taxi. Whatever you do, don’t drink and drive and plan on staying sober.
  • Whether you are a parent, family member  or a friend, don’t serve to or buy alcohol for people under 21.
  • The letter to Treasury Secretary-Designate Geithner and national press release are both attached below.  Please call me with any questions or if you would like to speak with representatives from any of the four supporting organizations.  Thank you! Amber McCracken, Vice President, Ruder Finn, 1667 K Street, NW, Washington, DC  20006

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  • EV

    What’s the problem with any of this? If you love beer enough to read this column, you are way more committed than to be discouraged by any of the ‘screed’. To posit the idea that this is some sort of effort to create a new ‘prohibition of alcohol’ is an insult to our intelligence…such a thing could never happen. This is information and to suppress it is neurotic. If you tell me such labeling costs a lot and will keep new products from the market, OK I’m concerned, but to suggest it is governmental conspiracy seems extreme.

  • William Brand

    You’re probably right. The tone was so sanctimonious that it rubbed me the wrong way.

  • EV

    Re-reading it, my tone was a bit over the top too, sorry about that. I guess I think more information never hurts. Love the blog though…

  • William Brand

    Thanks EV. ‘Glad you like it and your comments are welcome.