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'Marketplace' Report: Alcohol Labeling

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'Marketplace' Report: Alcohol Labeling


'Marketplace' Report: Alcohol Labeling

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From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY.

So if you buy a bottle of lemonade or a carton of milk, you can easily find out just how much fatter, how many calories are in it. You just look at the back for the nutritional information, right?

But if you look at a bottle of beer or booze, what do you find? Bupkus. Beer, wine and liquor manufacturers had been able elude requirements to list nutritional information, but that may soon change.

Let's belly up to the bar now with MARKETPLACE's Janet Babin.

So Janet, these new rules that the federal government is considering, what exactly would they require?

JANET BABIN: Well, Alex, companies would have to list the alcoholic content per serving and nutritional information on all alcoholic drink packaging. So if you're a light beer drinker now you're probably familiar with these labels already because they're required. But if you drink wine or spirits, you only know how much alcohol is in the whole bottle, not in your glass. So if the new rules are approved you'd, end up knowing calories, fat, carbs, protein and alcohol per servings, so no more excuses.

COHEN: Why the change?

BABIN: Well, the government considered making this change back in 1993, but it ended up concluding that there wasn't significant consumer interest back then. But then in 2003, the Center for Science in the Public Interest along with a couple of other consumer groups petitioned the government for more detailed information. And eventually the industry also ended up petitioning the government to label alcoholic beverages.

Perry Luntz is with the Beverage Media Group.

Mr. PERRY LUNTZ (National Editor, Beverage Media Group): There is a paucity of information on how much alcohol is in a single drink. They tell you what the alcohol content is of a bottle by volume.

BABIN: So Luntz says there's a certain amount ambivalence to the new rules among some in the industry, but in general it realized that these changes had to be made. Interesting enough, Alex, per capita alcohol consumption in the U.S. has not gone up, according to Luntz, for the past 15 years at least. But people are spending more on the alcoholic beverages they do drink, kind of quality as opposed to quantity, so the industry is still turning a profit.

COHEN: And let's get a little preview of the information that might be coming up on these bottles. What exactly - calorie speaking, nutritionally speaking - is in a bottle of beer or a glass of wine?

BABIN: You know, I didn't think it was that much. And it turns out, according to a survey, that I'd be like most of the rest of America. According to the study out of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, most of us, 58 percent of us, don't know the caloric content of our beer or wine or think it's less than it is.

So according to the USDA, here it is, Alex, beer: 12 ounces, 155 calories. That light beer will get you 104 calories. But a shot of whiskey, one ounce is 70 calories. So it appears that the whiskey may be the way to go. I don't know.

COHEN: I thank you, my hips do not. Janet Babin of Public Radio's daily business show MARKETPLACE. It's produced by American Public Media.

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