Coming Soon: Nutrition Labels for Beer

By: Nikki Sepe on Aug 2, 2016

The new nutrition facts label changes have proposed alterations to increase the health of Americans in hopes of reducing nutrient inadequacies and providing more information to consumers. However, there is one beverage that is not represented under these changes, beer.  The Beer Institute has decided to take initiative, gathering 81% of beer brands consumed by Americans together to add nutrition facts labels to these alcoholic beverages.

Who is The Beer Institute?

The Beer Institute represents the American brewing industry and is considered a “National Trade Association” representing over 3,300 brewers of all sizes, importers and suppliers within the industry before congress and for public policy matters.  This is a huge industry, contributing approximately $253 billion to the economy.

The Beer Institute created the Brewer’s Voluntary Disclosure Initiative, which will voluntarily transition all participating brewers to the current guidelines by the end of 2020.  These changes will increase transparency between customer and supplier.  Major companies including Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, HeinekenUSA, Constellation Brands Beer Division, North American Breweries and Craft Brew Alliance have all voluntarily agreed to this initiative.

What exactly will this nutrition facts label state?

  1. Energy and Macronutrients.  This includes calorie content, carbohydrate, protein, fat and the already required Alcohol By Volume (ABV) percentage.
  2. Ingredient disclosure.  Labels will include a complete listing of ingredients or a website address where consumers can be referred to for this information.
  3. Shelf Life.  The date the beverage was produced or a freshness date will be listed on the label.

What about the FDA?

If you are wondering why the Food and Drug Administration has not already implemented this nutrition label, it is because the FDA is not responsible for these beverages(1).  Instead, the responsibility falls under the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau which is responsible for distilled spirits, wines and malt beverages(2).  This government-run agency is responsible for overseeing the actions of these companies with a mission to “protect the public” ensuring the accuracy of labels, descriptions and website claims through chemical analysis to prevent consumer deception(3).

What is currently listed on beer labels?

Currently, you will find a number of items listed on a beer label including the following:

  1. Class Designation: This defines if the beverage is draft, ale, stout, porter, or wheat beer.
  2. Name and Address of bottler or importer
  3. Alcohol Content
  4. Low carbohydrate or light beverage claims: These claims must meet certain requirements.  Low carb must not have more than 7 grams of carbohydrates per 12-ounce serving and a beverage labeled "light" or "lite" must have the calories listed on the container. 
  5. Health Warning Statement is required by law. 
  6. Brand Name
  7. Serving Size: The net contents of beverage in measurable English units as pints or fluid ounces.
  8. Country of Origin

Menu Labeling

Enjoying Beer in a RestaurantThe only time that nutrition labeling is required on these alcoholic beverages is in a restaurant.  Starting in May 2017, the FDA will require that all calorie and nutrient information willbe fully disclosed by serving sizes on menus in restaurants.  This will give consumers a specific calorie amount for each item rather than a general assumption for a regular or light beer(4).

Ingredient labeling can aid those on low calorie, low-carbohydrate and gluten-free diets.  The adult population in America contains an average of 100 calories per day from alcohol(5).  Since alcohol does not contain nutrients beneficial for the human body, consuming an excess of daily calories from alcohol can lead to nutrient deficiencies or obesity. These new changes will increase consumer transparency while providing valuable and convenient nutrition information.

References

1.U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Issues Final Guidance on Labeling of Certain Beers. 2014. Access: http://www.fda.gov/Food/NewsEvents/ConstituentUpdates/ucm427359.htm

2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Guidance for Industry: Labeling of Certain Beers Subject to the Labeling Jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration. 2014. Access: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/ucm166239.htm

3.Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau.  Malt Beverage Labeling Regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations.  Access:https://www.ttb.gov/pdf/brochures/p51903.pdf

4.U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  Food Labeling; Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments; Extension of Compliance Date. Federal Register.  2015.  Access: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/07/10/2015-16865/food-labeling-nutrition-labeling-of-standard-menu-items-in-restaurants-and-similar-retail-food

5.Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.  Calories Consumed From Alcoholic Beverages by U.S. Adults, 2007-2010.  NCHS Data Brief. No. 110.  2012. Access:http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db110.htm