Consumer/Nutrition Groups Urge Gov’t to Update Alcohol Policies

In observance of National Alcohol Awareness Month, a coalition of public interest groups this week requested that Congress and the Obama administration issue regulation to require standardized labeling information on beer, wine and distilled spirits products, and provide the resources to address such issues as underage drinking, binge drinking and drunk driving.

The four nutrition and consumer advocacy organizations -- Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America, the National Consumers League, and Shape Up America! -- have brought out a new action plan, “Alcohol Policy for the 21st Century: A Platform to Give Americans the Facts to Drink Responsibly,” with the intent of modernizing the government’s approach to alcohol.

Specifically, the platform urges speedy action on four regulatory and legislative measures:

--Getting the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to issue a final regulation that requires complete and easy-to-read labeling information on all beer, wine and distilled spirits products. To provide the information needed for consumers to make informed purchasing and consumption decisions, the advocates continue to press for a standardized “Alcohol Facts” panel listing the alcohol content, the amount of alcohol per serving, the definition of a standard drink, the number of calories and facts about other ingredients
--Enlisting the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make increased access to alcohol content information a new national health objective when HHS issues “Healthy People 2020,” the updated 10-year health goals, in early 2010.
--Including detailed advice on responsible alcohol consumption levels for the public when HHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) release the revised “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” in 2010, with a specific focus on what constitutes a “standard drink” and the calorie content of “non-standard” mixed alcoholic drinks now gaining in popularity.
--Gaining congressional passage of the Support 21 Act of 2009, which will widen the nation’s underage drinking prevention efforts by allocating an additional $35.5 million to federal and state programs.

“There is no debate within the public health and consumer community about the need for mandatory and complete alcohol labeling,” said Chris Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, about the coalition’s top priority. “It’s time to give consumers the same helpful and easily accessible labeling information that is now required for conventional foods, dietary supplements and nonprescription drugs.”
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