The FDA’s new guidelines for menu labeling in chain restaurants and other business that serve food require these establishments to post the nutrition information that you’d find on the back of packaged foods. In other words, the regulations that have been in place in New York City for the past few years, will be imposed across the country. Restaurants with more than 20 locations must clearly post calories, saturated fat content, and other nutrition information next to the food they’re selling, in an attempt to educate consumers about the healthiness of their food.
However, there will be one noticeable omission; restaurants are not required to post the caloric content of alcoholic beverages. That’s puzzling, considering, as blogger Peter Smith points out,
“Americans reportedly drink about 2.5 gallons of pure alcohol per person per year, according the World Health Organization’s latest data (PDF). That’s like doing 410 shots of 100-proof vodka over the course of the year, or slurping up about 11 pints of Budweiser every day.”
Regardless of whether you agree with posting nutrition information as a way to get Americans to think more about what they’re eating (I’m ambivalent, because I’m not convinced that calorie-counting is a good way to get people to begin eating more healthily, and may be damaging for people who have struggled with eating disorders), it’s bizarre that alcohol isn’t subject to these regulations, especially because it has absolutely no nutritional content.
“The problem is that alcohol is a big source of calories in the American diet,” explained Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. And they’re not just calories – they’re empty calories. Wootan worries that omitting alcohol from nutrition information postings will “mistakenly give the impression that [they] are a better choice.”
If these new regulations are going to be completely effective, they have to include alcohol. If consumers are going to be made aware of the nutrition information in all of the food they’re buying, to neglect alcohol is simply absurd. Luckily, you can let the FDA know what you think. If you agree that calories from alcohol should be posted alongside food (or don’t want calorie-counting to be emphasized at all), leave a comment for the agency here.
Photo from Opencage.net.