Should Alcoholic Beverages Have Nutrition Labels?

Our alcoholic uncle always swore that booze was healthy, and if the Treasury Department has its way, nutrition labels on alcoholic beverages may soon have people thinking he was right. A rule issued last week by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau would require all alcoholic beverages to sport a panel listing traditional information like serving size and alcohol content, along with data on calorie, carbohydrate, fat, and protein content. The alcoholic beverage industry vigorously supports the rule, but some advocacy organizations are concerned that the nutrition labels might imply that alcoholic beverages have some nutritional value. Tell us what you think of the proposed rule in our poll, after the jump.


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Nutrition Labels Proposed for Alcohol [NYT]
27 CFR Parts 4, 5, 7, and 24 [Notice No. 73; Ref: Notice No. 41] Labeling and Advertising of Wines, Distilled Spirits and Malt Beverages; Proposed Rule (PDF) [Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau]
(Photo: Irish Typepad)

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  1. kingKonqueror says:

    I voted “Seriously?” on this one (which I think means “no”), but not because I’m against the idea of these beverages having nutritional content labels. What I am against, however, is making them mandatory *or* prohibited.

    Let companies that want to publish this information do so, and let consumers make an informed choice based on that. We don’t need YAGB (Yet Another Government Bureaucrat) policing yet another labelling law.

    Companies that want to flaunt their product’s “benefits” are free to do so, and we’re free to think poorly of companies that don’t dare do it.

  2. brkl says:

    Calori count & alcohol content is a must, the rest aren’t needed.

  3. I can’t think of a negative, especially since more people now glimpse at nutrition labels. Also, I have the feeling that a lot of inexperienced drinkers don’t know how very very many calories are in their drinks, because younger drinkers think wine coolers are some magical substance of promise and inconsequence.

  4. riggs says:

    I think it’s a pretty good idea. I’ve personally always been curious about caloric content, etc. in wine and liquor.

    And as for this: “…some advocacy organizations are concerned that the nutrition labels might imply that alcoholic beverages have some nutritional value.”– I don’t think that any reasonable person would think that having a “nutrition facts” label on their hooch actually means it’s good for you-I mean, they put the same labels on tubs of lard, but nobody in their right mind would think that it has nutritional value. I say go for it.

  5. sled_dog says:

    Bottled water has it ….

  6. skittlbrau says:

    but all the ads say “guiness for your health”. now they can prove it :)

  7. Chicago7 says:

    @kingKonqueror:

    Just say “nanny state” and get it over with and go back to your compound in Idaho.

  8. riggs says:

    @baa: I nominate that Guinness be renamed “Vitamin G.”

  9. kingKonqueror says:

    @Chicago7: I’ll stay here in Canada, thank you very much! ;-)

  10. brokennails says:

    I’d actually love to see a nutrition label on alcohol. While I know that no alcohol is really “good for you,” it’d help to pick one drink over another.

  11. morganlh85 says:

    The next thing they need to do is require bars and restaurants to post the prices of their alcoholic beverages.

  12. clarient says:

    Mostly I want to know the calorie count. I’ve pretty much accepted the fact that alcohol has very little in it.

  13. clarient says:

    @morganlh85: Wouldn’t that be nice! I feel like such a tightwad asking the price of my rum and coke. :(

  14. HungryGrrl says:

    It HAS calories, so they should tell me how many calories are in it.

    There’s no nutritional value in chewing gum, but they put a label on that anyways.

  15. gusgus says:

    I personally would be more likely to select beers with lower alcohol content. Proper labeling would help me out.

  16. uricmu says:

    There is already a labeling of alcohol content. But labeling calories (and fat in the case of cream based drinks) would be great.

    Liquor has nutritional value just the way that soft drinks do. Not “good value” , but an objective value in calories. Plus, it’ll make it easier to figure the serving size and calories on mixed drinks, which I think bars and restaurants should carry.

    I would also like to see ingredients labeling. Perhaps I’m allergic to something or just to a certain food color?

  17. ogman says:

    @riggs: Yes!

  18. Blackneto says:

    this is important info to have.
    as an example i point to a time about 17 years ago.
    Me and some buddies were drinking natty light.
    I notice on the can that it said there was .9 grams of protein per serving.
    we figured that it would take 6 beers an hour for 24 hours to get our recommended daily allowance of protein.

    we lasted about 3 hours.

  19. nardo218 says:

    How many calories does alcohol have? A lot more than you think.

  20. Christy says:

    “…Some advocacy organizations are concerned that the nutrition labels might imply that alcoholic beverages have some nutritional value.” That makes no sense at all.

    …seriously?! That is probably the worst conceivable argument for not putting nutritional info on alcohol. Jesus, I don’t even know where to start.

  21. azntg says:

    Nutritional labelling on Alcohol will probably stop those on a weight-loss program. But holy geez, people who still drink to get drunk probably wouldn’t give a damn either way.

    Damn, looks like wine has some of the lesser calories compared to other alcoholic drinks based on that site.

  22. asherchang says:

    Not only does alcohol need nutritional info, but it needs a list of ingredients. The brewing industry can get away with putting alot of gross stuff in your wine and beer, and consumers don’t have the option of choosing what goes into their body when they drink alcohol.

    However, generally, light beer has the most additives out of all alcoholic beverages cuz they have to put alot of stuff in it to make watered down beer taste not watered down.

  23. beyond says:

    I think if you are consuming enough alcohol that the calories in it affect your body, you have more serious problems than gaining a few pounds.

  24. no.no.notorious says:

    i just like to read what im putting into my body, regardless if it’s good or bad

    maybe theres a ton of fiber and we just don’t know about it!

  25. Christovir says:

    I think the most important part of labelling would be to include ingredients. I can understand not having full nutritional info, but the ingredients are pretty fundamental in general, but particularly for people with allergies or other dietary restrictions.

    A slight complication with listing calories in alcohol is that although alcohol has a precisely known value for physical calories, we are still unsure as to how the body metabolizes it. I remember reading several articles (sorry, no link) suggesting the body treats them very differently than food-based calories.

    This wiki article is a nice summary of some of the alcohol/health issues: [en.wikipedia.org]

  26. Havok154 says:

    Usually people don’t drink alcohol because it’s good for you, and I don’t think this will make any change in that.

  27. aubiefan says:

    I think that if they have calories, sodium, etc, it should be labeled, period. You buy it with the purpose of putting it into your body, so you should be able to see exactly what it contains.

    This is a little off-topic, but I think they should add caffeine content to nutrition labels, some people are more sensitive to it than others and it is an important piece of information.

  28. @uricmu: Actually, currently, alcohol content is only required to be labeled if the content is over 5%. There’s a big difference between a beer with 2.9% ABV and 4.9%.

  29. Televiper says:

    Why would we not put a nutritional label on it? It’s food. It goes in our mouth, down to our tummy, and get’s absorbed into our body. If someone wants to get their daily dose of niacin from a bottle of beer that’s their prerogative. The person drinking a bottle of beer, or glass of wine with their chicken dinner should also be given the tools to inform themselves about the health effects of what they are consuming.

  30. dbeahn says:

    Yeah, like the fact that twinkies have nutritional labels sure make me think they’re “healthy”…

    Anyone stupid enough to think that just because something has a nutritional label on it, it must be healthy is probably already well full up on booze…

  31. Onouris says:

    It wouldn’t ‘make people think beer has nutritional value’.

    If it has nutrients in it, then it really does have some nutritional value. No-one said nutritional values have to be high.

  32. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    It can’t hurt, but I’m not picturing somebody sitting in a dark bar and who is already half in the bag stopping to read the nutrition label.

  33. AcidReign says:

        I voted “seriously?” Hell, I was born during the Ike era, and we knew growing up that the stuff wasn’t good for you! WTF?

  34. jaredharley says:

    Anyone else but me surprised that the alcoholic beverage industry is FOR this new regulation? It’s not very often you see an industry excited about a new government regulation…

    I agree with this new proposal. As mentioned prior, it’s idiotic to think that someone would go “oh look, it’s got a label, must be good for me” – and people who honestly think like that are probably not the creme de la creme we want breeding…

    I would like to know, though, how many calories are in a can of beer. I think this would be especially useful for people who are on counting diets (whether calories, protein, etc).

  35. Brazell says:

    For thousands of years, the only liquid that you could consume that wouldn’t lead to your immediate death you was beer, wine, or spirits.

    But anyway, there has been considerable research that has suggested that Stouts not only really aren’t bad for you, but can prevent blood clots and heart attacks. Guinness has more antioxidants than almost any “synthetic” drink (soda, etc)… and there’s really no reason that a pint a day is any worse for you than a can of soda.

  36. Brazell says:

    As for the calorie question, if you’re on a diet, you shouldn’t be drinking beer to begin with. Low calorie beer, like say Mick Ultra, has so little alcohol content in it — comparitively — that you may as well just have a SpriteZero and say it’s Gin and Tonic.

  37. Televiper says:

    here’s some nutritional information for beer

    [beer.about.com]

    Here’s some for potato chips

    [www.dietfacts.com]

    Revealing, but no one is coming to the conclusion that this stuff is good for you.

  38. TedSez says:

    If alcoholic beverages had to have ingredient lists — like every other beverage we consume — I bet we’d find that mass-produced beers and flavored liquors are loaded with artificial flavorings, artificial colors, sweeteners, preservatives and a bunch of other chemicals. It doesn’t mean people wouldn’t still drink them if they knew, but it would be nice to have the choice.

  39. Ickypoopy says:

    If virtually all over the other beverages I can buy in a store have to have nutrition facts, why would alcoholic beverages be any different?

  40. Mom2Talavera says:

    It would be a good idea especially(like TEDSEZ said) for those flavored malt beverages. I’ve reluctantly drank a few Captain Morgan Parrot Bays and the like at parties because I hate beer. But it would be nice to know if the red coloring is from carmine or not.

  41. abbamouse says:

    @jaredharley:

    Many states prohibit companies from listing the alcohol content of beerages like beer. Their stated concern is a “race to the top” as beer makers try to max out the legally-allowed ABV per serving. Since this is a federal regulation, it would override state requirements to the contrary.

  42. shoegazer says:

    I’ll tell you why a drinks nutrition label is being welcomed by the drinks industry: marketing “diet” beers to sad alcoholics who think a 160 calorie drink will make their Friday night binge less guilty.

  43. str1cken says:

    I’ve been wishing they had nutrition labels for a while now.

    And please – alcohol has been legal in this country for a very long time now. We can’t trust them to voluntarily label – not a single company has done it yet.

    The free market isn’t really free, nor should it necessarily be. As long as profit is king in this country, comapnies are predatorial and we should have laws that help protect and inform consumers.

  44. SpaceCat85 says:

    Yes, definitely! It would be great not to have to go online to see how much alcohol is in a particular beer.

    As for regular nutritional labeling, there should at the very least be a caloric content & ingredients listing. Mmm, imagine some of the weird stuff that’s probably in Bud Light and its ilk.

  45. V-effekt says:

    @MichaelBrazell:
    That is because we Europeans didn’t figure out for a thousand years that you can boil water to make it safe. I always thank my stars that Germanic people didn’t figure out how to boil water and that is why they developed the massive beer production industry.;)

    On the other hand, if you want to add a label, you would have to declare beer and the like a ‘foodstuff’ That is why you don’t have nutritional labels on Antifreeze and honey based legwax. It send the wrong message that you can get nutrition from alcohol. You get a little nutrition from beer, but the effect is reversed after you drink more.
    Comapnies already advertise low cal info like on Guinness and can continue to do so, but listing it like on a carton of milk is probably not the best idea.

    (And I know, the same argument could be used for Ho-Hos and Twinkies.. ;) Calling them ‘foodstuff’ is probably a misnomer.

  46. WV.Hillbilly says:

    What are you all?
    A bunch of women?

  47. Chicago7 says:

    Diet Coke wouldn’t be a “foodstuff” either and they are all sorts of labels and warning labels on Diet Coke.

  48. etinterrapax says:

    Yes, I’d like to have this information. And since they’re prone to making nutritional claims–related to carb or calorie content–I have no problem with their being compelled to do it. Let’s face it, this is probably the least egregious of the nanny state intrusions, and it gives people tools for responsible consumption.

  49. skechada says:

    Having beer labels with the ingredients listed can only help consumers make informed decisions. Right now, it’s exceptionally difficult to locate information about what’s in various beers, let alone try to compare beers.

    And I think most people will be very surprised at all the ingredients that are in most mass produced beers.

  50. tinychicken says:

    @morganlh85: Some smaller independent bars and restaurants do not list prices of alcoholic beverages because they tend to vary according to the attitude of the patron. The place my good friend works has an “A.U.C.” (Asshole Up Charge) button right on the register.
    Regarding the question at hand, I’d like to know how many calories are in my shots of Jameson.

  51. Chaosium says:

    @Chicago7: @kingKonqueror: A consumer can’t make informed choices without having INFORMATION readily available.

  52. mermaidshoes says:

    @tinychicken: ahhh, i love the service industry. respond to assholes by being an asshole, setting off an avalanche of assholery that never ends! no wonder servers are so bitter.

    i would appreciate calorie labeling on alcohol, but i do worry that it might further encourage the all-too-common (& not to mention dangerous) “skip dinner–and maybe even lunch and breakfast!–so you can drink” attitude.

  53. bonzombiekitty says:

    If a product is produced to be eaten or drank, it should have an ingredients list and nutritional information.

  54. Msgundam84 says:

    Wine is healthier than beer. Yet, law prohibits companies that sell alcohol from advertising it’s potential health benefits.

    I would hate to think that just because something has a nutrition label
    on it that the avergage person would think it’s healthy….but then
    again we live in America.

    I’m for the labels. Hopefully it deters people from drinking and
    drinking and getting beer bellies. Beer has just as many calories as
    regular soda.

  55. spectrum123 says:

    Even though I think there would be a good service being provided with nutrition labels on alcohol, it would just be taken out of hand. The way the trend is going bars, lounges and restaurants will soon be required to list all alcoholic nutrition information on their cocktails which couldnt always be accurate(and WAYYYYY too much of a hastle)

  56. Daveed says:

    Anything that helps consumers make well informed choices on what they buy/eat/drink.

    Oh, and I don’t buy that people are going to somehow start using alcohol as a diet option because they label how many calories are on it: “OMG It has a label with information, it’s healthy!”.

  57. Everything has calories. And as a Weight Watchin’ person, I’d like to know exactly how many calories a thing has. Twinkies have a Nutrition Label on it too, but no one thinks they have any actual nutrition in them!

  58. SirKeats says:

    i don’t think it should be required… but for folks on a diet, it might be handy. not that booze makes for a good diet supplement – unless of course it makes up your 3 major meals of the day. LOL

  59. Buran says:

    @tinychicken: Somehow, I don’t think that’s legal.

  60. quieterhue says:

    To be honest, I’m baffled that the alcohol industry supports this. With nutrition information listed, people may be forced to consider how the calories in booze affect their overall intake. I think this will encourage people to drink LESS, not MORE.

  61. The cited article is bunk: it claims the industry is behind it but quotes someone from Smirnoff and individuals in the craft beer industry (the latter of which are somewhat opposed).

    You know who they don’t ask? Large American brewers, i.e. Coors and Budweiser, who wants you to know as little as possible about their beer aside from the fact that it gets you drunk.

    All that said: I’m all for it.

    @Christovir: I’d LOVE to see ingredients more than anything else myself, but never will. Budweiser would sooner fold than let you know what’s in it.

  62. TheName says:

    @jaredharley: The generalization that the industry is for it belies the truth. Diageo, a company which sells liquor and beer and has long pushed the “drink is a drink” ideology (for taxation and marketing purposes mainly), is squarely behind this. Brewers, for the most part, are definitely not.
    See here: [www.beertown.org]

    As for everyone on the “beer is unhealthy” train … well, studies show it’s not any less healthful than wine and may be significantly more healthful (many more vitamins, antioxidants, etc.). Of course, none of that can be listed or used as a selling tactic (see Bert Grant’s attempt and the resultant clash with the ATF mentioned here: [seattlepi.nwsource.com]).

  63. TheName says:

    @krylonultraflat: Actually, Budweiser’s pretty upfront about what it puts in its beer.
    [www.davisgrad.com]
    By my count, they’re only leaving off yeast and water and, if you really wanted, whatever leeches from the beechwood they ‘age’ the beer on. Besides the rice, that’d be the ingredients on most beers’ labels (nothing in the TTB’s proposal seems to require distinction between Amarillo vs. Centennial hops or black patent vs. Crystal 60 malt).

  64. tinychicken says:

    @Buran: Somehow I don’t think they care. Many things that take place in the service industry aren’t legal. Try complaining. See where it gets you. 3 pushes of the AUC button, most likely and that’s about it.

  65. AbstractConcept says:

    about time. There’s no reason alcohol should be an exception to the rule, even bottled water has nutritional value charts.. besides, this will put to rest the truth about if jagermeister has deer blood in it or not.. lol

  66. NeoWhiteWolf says:

    Really People, I work at a state controlled liquor store and no one, and i mean no one who buys on a regular or semi-regular basis gives a hoot.

    What this is going to do is give more government control over a over controlled industry. Whats to say in a year with this health consensus rage that they won’t ban alcoholic beverages unless they are “healthy” and such.

    Its all sugar and water. Has been for 10k yerars.

  67. ChaosMotor says:

    Candy bars have nutritional values on the label, and you’d be hard pressed to call them “nutritious”.

    It only makes common sense that ANYTHING intended to be consumed should have nutrition labels on them.

    This isn’t about alcohol encouraging consumption, it’s about the publics’ right to know what they are consuming.

  68. cedricv says:

    My God! This is so beyond me!!! I can’t believe how stupid american people can be… What would we do without our government telling us what is right and what is wrong?
    This is just so sad. If anybody has ever traveled outside of this country, it is obvious that such rules indicate once more that the US has no soul. It’s a bunch of little robots following the directions of Uncle Sam. Go ahead, just put some labels on the damn bottles, and carry your calculator around as you count how many calories you are allowed. And guess what, you will just have as many fat people as you do now…
    Good luck with this…