The PJ Tatler

Cheers! Menus to List Calorie Count of Alcohol Drinks

More from the nanny statists at the Food and Drug Administration:

Restaurant menus will now list the calorie count for your booze of choice.

New menu labeling rules from the Food and Drug Administration will require chain restaurants with 20 or more outlets to list the amount of calories in alcoholic drinks, along with other foods, on menus by next November. The idea is that people often don’t know – or even think about – how many calories they are imbibing.

I don’t buy this at all. If people care about calories, they know the calorie count of what they eat and drink. How many apps are there available to download on one’s cell phone that provide calorie counts to those who are interested in such information? A lot.

Fortunately, alcoholic beverages ordered at the bar or drinks that are not listed on the main menu will not be required to list calorie counts. Hint to restaurants: have a separate menu for your alcohol.

Public health advocates, aka “busybodies,” say the required restaurant labeling is a first step.

“Alcoholic beverages are a key contributor to the calories Americans are consuming, and most of the time when people have a drink they have absolutely no idea what its caloric impact is,” says Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Her group petitioned the government more than a decade ago to require that bottles and cans be labeled with robust nutritional information.

Initially, the FDA exempted alcohol-based drinks from listing the calorie count. “The FDA’s proposed menu labeling rules in 2011 exempted alcohol. But FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the agency decided to include it in the final rules this year after those who commented on the rule were largely in favor of such labeling because of its potential impact on public health.”

Of course there was pushback from the liquor industry. They argued the industry was already regulated by the Treasury Department (and of course, where do you think the “A” in “ATF” comes from? The DOJ.)  The alcohol industry argued that Treasury’s regulation has “well served the consuming public.”

For those keeping count, the alcohol industry is regulated by no fewer than THREE agencies: Treasury, the DOJ and the FDA.

But take heart, the requirements are meant not to be “burdensome” for the industry or for restaurants. The FDA will allow “estimates” to be used for the countless combinations of fancy mixed drinks.  “That means menus will list the average amount of calories in a glass of red or white wine, but won’t list calories by every brand of wine on the wine list. Same with beers and spirits.”

The labeling rules have “more of an indirect effect on our business,” says Wendell Lee of the California-based Wine Institute. Lee says brand-specific menu calorie labels could be especially burdensome on the wine industry, where every vintage and varietal is different.

Yet another regulating agency, the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau told the liquor industry they could put serving sizes and calorie count on their labels. Alcohol labeling laws are “complicated” because of course they are.

Wines containing 14 percent or more alcohol by volume must list alcohol content. Wines that are 7 percent to 14 percent alcohol by volume may list alcohol content or put “light” or “table” wine on the label. “Light” beers must list calorie and carbohydrate content. Liquor must list percent alcohol content by volume and may also list proof, a measure of alcoholic strength.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau said it’s important that the labeling doesn’t “mislead the consumer.”