Alcohol Labeling Public Support: Strongly Favors Nutritional Labels

Consumers have a right to know the contents of what they eat and drink. Millions of people rely on nutrition labels to help them make important health and diet choices. Independent research has found that label information on packaged food and drinks is very useful. It helps 76% of people make decisions on what to buy. So the fact is simple about alcohol labeling: public support is very strongly in favor of it.

But how much fat is in your favorite beer.  How much protein is in your glass of merlot. Or how many carbs are in your gin? It’s impossible to find out. That’s because of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). It prohibits beer, wine and spirits companies from providing any of that information on labels!

A number of consumer and nutrition groups have called for an end to this prohibition. As a result, consumers would have the information they need to make wise decisions.

Survey Results: Alcohol Labeling Public Support is Strong

According to a nationally representative sample of adults in the U.S. age 21 or older:

  • 61% support nutritional labels on alcoholic beverage containers,
  • 79% prefer a label with alcohol information. Specifically, alcohol content per serving, alcohol by volume and a statement of what constitutes standard drinks.
  • 70%-82% find the alcohol and nutritional information on proposed labels easy to understand.
  • “Alcohol content by serving” was rated as the important information to have on labels (69%). And it was the most likely to be read (65%).
  • Only 47% know that a standard drink of regular beer is 12 fluid ounces. Only 39 % know that a standard drink of wine is 5 ounces. Finally, only 22% know that a standard drink of distilled spirits is 1.5 ounces.
  • After being told the definition of a standard drink the overwhelming majority (85%) consider this information helpful.
  • After hearing the standard drink statement, it emerges as the second most helpful piece of alcohol information (55%).

Nutrition in Popular Beverages

The calories, carbohydrates and fat content of beverages can sabotage the best intentions to lose or maintain weight. That’s because we tend to be unaware of just how fattening some beverages really are. The following list shows the calories, carbs and fat found in standard servings of both alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages.

Beverage Calories Carbs (grams) Fat (grams)

Alcoholic

Beer (regular)

146

13.13

.000

Beer (lite)

99

4.60

.000

All Distilled Spirits (rum, vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila, bourbon, etc.)

97

0.00

.000

Wine (red)

74

1.75

.000

Wine (white)

70

0.82

.000

Non-Alcoholic

Apple juice (unsweetened)

117

28.96

.273

Apricot juice

140

36.11

.226

Carbonated cola

155

39.77

.000

Grape juice (unsweetened)

155

37.84

.202

Grapefruit juice (unsweetened)

94

22.13

.247

Lemonade

131

34.05

.149

Milk (2% fat)

122

11.41

4.807

Orange juice (unsweetened)

112

26.84

.149

Prune juice

182

44.67

.077

Tangerine juice (unsweetened)

125

29.88

.098

Tomato juice

41

10.30

.122

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Available at www.nal.usda.gov/.

So most alcohol beverages have fewer calories than most non-alcohol beverages. But many people are still concerned about gaining weight from drinking them. However, alcohol beverages contain no fat and are very low in carbohydrates. Additionally, it appears that the “effective” calories in alcohol are substantially lower than the numbers listed.

For whatever reason, numerous research studies have demonstrated that consuming alcohol tends not to increase weight. And among women, it is often associated with slight losses in weight. That’s even better news than the figures listed above would suggest. Learn more at Alcohol, Calories and Weight: Surprising Facts Unknown to Most M.D.s.

Alcohol Equivalence

Alcohol Labeling Public SupportStandard servings of beer, wine, and spirits all contain equivalent amounts of alcohol and are the same to a Breathalyzer. A standard drink is:

  • A 12-ounce bottle or can of regular beer
  • A 5-ounce glass of wine
  • A drink of one and 1/2 ounce of 80 proof distilled spirits (either straight or in a mixed drink)

Knowing about alcohol equivalence can help people drink in moderation. The American Dietetic Association says it well. “Knowing the facts of beverage alcohol equivalence is a crucial aspect of responsible drinking.” For example, people won’t be fooled by the misleading term “hard liquor.” That implies that drinking spirits leads more quickly to intoxication than beer or wine.

Standard Drinks

The drivers manuals of most states emphasize alcohol equivalence and its importance. So do these.

  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • American Dietetic Association.
  • National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
  • American Heart Association.
  • National Kidney Foundation.
  • American Diabetes Association.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  • American Gastroenterological Association.
  • National Consumers League
  • American Public Health Association.
  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
  • American Academy of Family Physicians.
  • and many others.

Sources: Alcohol Labeling Public Support

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Referenc.

Crown Royal delivers important serving facts to consumers: Consumers get information on carbs, calories, fat, alcohol per serving. Diageo press release.

Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).