Photo: reivax, Flickr
Current labeling regulations are complex. Wine, beer and liquor producers are not required to list actual ingredients on the label, but must list items like sulfites or FD&C Yellow No. 5 for consumers who are sensitive. Whether or not nutritional information like calories, carbohydrates and serving size should be added to labels is up for discussion, but Tom Hogue, spokesman for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) told USA Today that it's unclear when federal officials might make a decision.
"I hear echos of the topic, but I don't think it will become a government mandate," says Rob Cooper, president and founder of St-Germain/Cooper Spirits Company. "There are already a lot of regulations surrounding alcohol. You have to go through the TTB formal approval process to ensure consumers are getting a safe product. It's not the Wild West. You can't just do what you want. They're strict about the ingredients."
And besides, adds Cooper, "Alcohol is not a critical component of ones sustenance. It's for recreational use. Who cares if it's good for you?"
He's got a point.
Beer and wine groups have their own issues with future labeling requirements. The beer industry has said it would back the listing of calories, protein, fat content and alcohol by volume, but it won't support listing out serving size by fluid ounces of pure alcohol. The wine crowd wants to keep labeling requirements voluntary. When you get into ingredients like bitters, the topic gets even more complicated.
"With bitters, there are two options in the U.S.," says Stephan Berg of The Bitter Truth. "The general practice, for companies like Peychaud's, is to apply for non-potable status, which categorizes it as a food item."
The other is to be listed as a spirit, the route Berg chose for his product line.
"Angostura Bitters show the nutritional facts on the label, but look at Fee Brothers or Peychaud's, and there are no nutritional facts on them, even though they're listed as a food item," he says.
Okay, at this point, we feel tipsy, and we're pretty sure we wouldn't be able to read all the tiny fine print future labels might require. But should those requirements come to fruition, Cooper says there could be a cool silver lining to it all.
"One thing it could do is incentivize the larger producers to be more diligent about what they put in their product. If they had to call it out on the label, products like St-Germain, with ingredients like fresh flowers and sugar, would look overwhelmingly better."
- Read about big changes coming to nutrition labels at AOL Health.