Earlier this month, the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued a ruling that allows alcohol producers to voluntarily add “Serving Facts” labels to their products. Alcohol Justice, the American alcohol industry watchdog, critically reports on this, saying that ‘it’s a win-win for manufacturers: they gain a marketing tool; inch potentially harmful products ever closer to being treated as non-alcoholic beverages; and spin the labels as a win for public health’.
In their Blog ‘In the doghouse’, Alcohol Justice (formerly known as the Marin Institute) critically argue that this new development is lauded as a health victory, while in fact it’s an additional marketing instrument that is not aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm or improving public health.
One part of the Blog post reads: ‘Distilled spirits producers are excited because they have gained another tool in their arsenal, to be deployed selectively when it serves their bottom line. On the marketing end of the table, alcohol companies have carved out product niches for the last several years among weight- and health-conscious drinkers, (…) Products such as SkinnyGirl that are marketed as “low calorie” or “low carb” may choose to sport a serving facts label, while the products that are high in calories and sugar most likely will not. (…) it’s easy to see how such a ruling will likely serve to significantly increase positive perceptions about alcoholic beverages and their brands, thus leading to increased sales and consumption.‘
Alcohol Justice instead pleads for all alcohol producers to be required to list all ingredients and provide factual information in a way that does not promote consumption. This argument is in line with a systematic literature review, just published in the European Journal of Public Health. This article, ‘Enhanced labelling on alcoholic drinks: reviewing the evidence to guide alcohol policy,’ concludes that: ‘Current evidence seems to support prompt inclusion of a list of ingredients, nutritional information (usually only kcal) and health warnings on labels. Standard drink and serving size is useful only when combined with other health education efforts. A definition of ‘moderate intake’ and recommended drinking guidelines are best suited to other contexts.’