If you diligently check labels on chips and dip but have no idea how many carbs are in the six-pack you pick up for a party, you may not be in the dark much longer.
On Tuesday the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued a ruling that allows alcoholic beverage companies to provide nutritional information on the labels of alcohol products. The "Serving Facts" statement will include serving size, number of servings per container, and amount of calories, carbs, protein, and fat per serving. Additionally the serving facts statement may include information about the alcohol content of the product as a percentage of alcohol by volume.
"Our intent is to make it as simple as possible for alcohol industry members to include this information and make the nutritional facts clear, consistent, and non-misleading for consumers," says Tom Hogue, spokesman for the TTB. "The Serving Facts label gives consumers a clear count of nutritional stats, allowing for the fact that serving sizes will vary according to how much alcohol a drink contains."
Previously alcoholic beverage labels could list calorie and carbohydrate counts pursuant to a 2004 ruling, but any nutritional information had to be pre-approved by the TTB.
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Reactions from the alcoholic beverage industry has been mixed, but generally positive.
"While the wine industry as a whole is in not in favor of making it mandatory to include Serving Facts on alcohol labels, we maintain a neutral position since it’s a voluntary ruling," says Michael Kaiser, director of communications for Wine America.
If it were mandatory, Kaiser says there would be concerns about the financial cost to small, independent wineries that would have to pay to analyze every batch of wine. And although consumers are unlikely to see any price changes at this point, a mandatory ruling may result in slight price increases, especially from smaller vineyards.
Kaiser also cites an aesthetic concern. "Wines use labels as a form of advertising to consumers, so a mandatory Serving Facts label would interfere with the aesthetics."
The Distilled Spirits Council, meanwhile, released a statement in support of the ruling. "We see it a positive example of public health prevailing over politics," says Lisa Hawkins, vice president of public affairs. "It's great news for nutrition-conscious consumers who read labels of other food and beverage products to make informed decisions."
Hawkins also believes that having the amount of alcohol by volume on the label will help people measure and moderate their drinking to follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in regard to alcohol consumption. For women, the guidelines recommend one drink per day, which means 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.
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As for the beer industry's feelings, in a press release, Joe McClain, president of the Beer Institute, said, “We applaud the TTB’s conclusion that rules be based on how drinks are actually served and consumed. People have a right to know their drink [and] know that there is a difference between a beer, a glass of wine, and a cocktail.
Consumer groups, including the National Consumers League, the Consumer Federation of America, and Shape Up America!, have also expressed support for the decision in a press release, although they urge the TTB to make the ruling mandatory in the future.
How do you feel about the ruling? Do you want to see nutrition facts on your wine, beer, or liquor? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter @Shape_Magazine.