The labels of most foods and beverages sold in the U.S. are strictly regulated, but there’s one major exception: alcohol. Unlike a bottle of orange juice or a can of Coke, alcoholic drinks like beer aren’t required to include nutritional facts on the package. Now, a new voluntary guideline adopted by the Beer Institute aims to change that. As Consumerist reports, the regulation will ask brewers to include carbs, calories, fat, protein, and serving size details on their beer labels.
The Beer Institute isn’t a government organization, but rather an American beer industry trade group that includes major labels such as Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, and HeinekenUSA. Thanks to a law made after Prohibition, alcohol is regulated by the U.S. Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), not the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The bureau has no mandatory rules for listing nutrition facts or even ingredients on labels, so manufacturers that aren’t a part of the Beer Institute (about 19 percent of the market) can still leave off the information. (And, it bears repeating, even for manufacturers who are part of the institute, the new rules are voluntary—although the institute says that in practice all their manufacturers have complied.)
Other tidbits that will be featured on the new labels include a “freshness date” or “date of production” as well as alcohol by volume percentage, which can already be found on most beer containers. Consumers will also have a way to see the ingredients, but it won’t necessarily be by reading the bottle. Brewers who choose to omit the ingredients list from the label can instead post them on a website or make them accessible through the scanning of a barcode.
The Beer Institute is planning to have every product labeled in accordance with the new guidelines by the end of the decade. Until then, enjoy your heavy beers in blissful ignorance while you still can.
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