Despite their widespread use, alcohol-containing beverages are the only category of consumable products lacking complete and standardized labeling information about the ingredients as well as the alcohol, calories, and nutrient content per serving. Such labeling falls within the jurisdiction of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. This agency falls with the US Department of the Treasury-the very agency that is grappling with the struggling US economy. Treasury is not an agency with a public health focus, and it has many other competing priorities. But consumer support for labeling of alcohol-containing products has been growing. In 2007, after decades of stalling, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau issued a proposed rule making and sought public comment. Thousands of people commented, overwhelmingly in support of labeling, but no final rule on alcohol labeling was issued during the Bush administration. Now, with a new administration in place, it is unclear where things stand on this important strategy for informing American consumers. The number of calories in a beer remains a mystery, and only the savviest of individuals is able to calculate the alcohol content of a glass of wine. This article discusses these issues and provides information on policy changes needed to ensure that proposed labeling of alcoholic drinks support appropriate decision making by consumers. It also describes recent consumer research that takes advantage of the Internet to evaluate 3 different potential labels to determine which label consumers preferred. The survey findings showed that consumers preferred the most comprehensive label providing information on alcohol content, calories, nutrients, ingredients, and clear guidance on responsible drinking consistent with the US Dietary Guidelines
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Barbara J. Moore, PhD, is president and chief executive officer of Shape Up America!, a national campaign founded by former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop in 1994. Dr Moore holds a BA from Skidmore College, a master's and doctorate from Columbia University, and postdoctoral training in nutrition and physiology at the University of California at Davis.
The consumer research conducted via the Internet and discussed in the latter half of this article was supported, in part, by a grant to Shape Up America! from Diageo, PLC, a London-based manufacturer of beer, wine, and spirits.
Correspondence: Barbara J. Moore, PhD, Shape Up America!, PO Box 149, Clyde Park, MT 59018 (firstname.lastname@example.org).