Statement of CSPI Senior Scientist Michael F. Jacobson
Too many Americans are likely overlooking the considerable number of calories—and sometimes strange ingredients—they get from alcoholic beverages. The obvious reason for that is that except for “light” beer, brewers haven’t been required to disclose calories. And even then, it’s often in tiny print. Ingredients are almost universally absent. However, Bud Light drinkers—at least those who are buying the product by the six-pack, 12-pack, or case—will now see ingredients listed in big, bold print and calories presented in a format resembling that of the familiar Nutrition Labels.
That’s a good step in the right direction. But we hope that Anheuser-Busch will do the same for all the other beers in its portfolio, many of which are higher in calories, and put the information on the cans and bottles themselves.
Importantly, labels on all alcoholic beverages should also disclose the amount of alcohol—the key ingredient in alcoholic beverages and the one responsible for all kinds of health problems and societal mayhem. CSPI asked the government to require such labeling some 15 years ago and in 2013 the Treasury Department allowed voluntary “Serving Facts” labels, showing “acceptable” labels that would disclose the percentage of alcohol by volume and the number of fluid ounces of alcohol per standard serving. The new Bud Light labels are not consistent with those guidelines.
Improved product labeling is only a small part of reducing the public health harm associated with alcohol. Of course, the best way for Americans to limit their calories from booze is to drink less. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers “moderate” drinking to mean up to one drink a day for women (and none for pregnant women) and up to two drinks a day for men.
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