The Beer institute, a trade association for the American brewing industry recently announced that its members will voluntarily provide serving facts (similar to nutritional labels) on their products. Don’t expect the same in Canada anytime soon, though.
The Amercian association represents about 80% of the US Beer makers including Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Heineken USA and others.
Although they will be showing information about calories, carbohydrates, protein and fat, you won’t find this information in the familiar FDA/health Canada Nutritional Facts format as The FDA doesn’t have jurisdiction over alcohol. The guidelines were provided by the American Tax and Trade Department, which oversees alcohol and tobacco sale. The informational layout won’t be identical between the beer manufacturers either. There will be information on a primary label but also on secondary packaging (reference to a web site or QR code). This is somewhat unfortunate as an opportunity to standardize consumer information (especially at this scale) should never be passed up. Something resembling the FDA labelling would have been ideal. Nutritional labelling in the American alcoholic beverage industry has been mostly started out as voluntary, and has turned out many different presentations. Disclosure of these serving facts will be phased into the market between now and 2020.
Nutritional labels on beer in Canada
In Canada the stance on alcoholic beverages is quite different. According to Health Canada, « adding a nutritional label, strongly associated with foods, to an alcoholic beverage would infer that it can be included as part of a healthy eating plan ». As alcohol has been linked to addiction, fetal alcohol syndrome and impaired driving, the decision was to stay away from nutritional information altogether.
Alcohol is complex
Alcohol is a complex subject when it comes to health. even the factual information presented by the American beer makers becomes misleading as soon as the alcohol hits your body. People counting calories will be disappointed to find out that even in moderate doses, alcohol inhibits fat-burning and causes you to store more fats. After only 1 and a half drinks, your body can no longer break down the alcohol efficiently and so begins to burn it as fuel to get rid of it quicker. This can reduce fat burning by 75%.
Labelling should be clear
In the interest of consumer health, such information as well as the dangers of alcohol should be made available by the manufacturer. In Canada, this logic has been taken to extremes on cigarette packaging for example, where the physical effects of smoking on the mouth and lungs are graphically illustrated with disturbing photos. It has proven effective, however.
Ideally, labelling should inform clearly and succinctly, without resorting to drama. With products like alcohol and tobacco, important secondary information should be standardized and easily referenced, such as in the smart label program currently being undertaken in the food industry.
After all, isn’t the idea to sell the product while ensuring the consumer’s health and well-being? Have a product you need to market? Why not consult the experts at IMS.