TTB had a fascinating tidbit in the September 3, 2010 TTB Newsletter. It tends to say that nutrition information will be attaching to beer, wine and spirits a lot sooner than most people expected. Not so much on labels (yet), but on menus, wine lists and similar postings at on-premise retailers. This seems like a huge and important development, courtesy of President Obama, Congress and FDA (rather than TTB). It therefore seems odd that there is not much outcry; the submitted comments do not show much awareness from the alcohol beverage industry. The Washington Post suggests that the connection among the health care legislation, menu labeling and alcohol beverages caught most people by surprise.
TTB summarized the initiative succinctly:
On March 23, 2010, the President signed the health care reform legislation into law. Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires restaurants and similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations to list calorie content information for standard menu items on restaurant menus and menu boards, including drive-through menu boards. Other nutrient information – total calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, fiber and total protein – would have to be made available in writing upon request.
The FDA Questions and Answers in B, Covered Food, Question 2, provides: “Are meat and poultry dishes and alcoholic beverages that are served in a covered restaurant or SRFE subject to the requirements in section 4205? Yes. Meat and poultry dishes and alcoholic beverages are considered food as defined in the FFDCA (see Question B.1). Therefore, the nutrition disclosure requirements in section 4205 apply in cases where these foods are listed on a menu or menu board or are otherwise covered under section 4205, even though they may be regulated by other agencies in other circumstances.”
The FDA is required by law to issue proposed regulations to carry out these provisions by March 23, 2011.
The FDA notice is here. FDA’s Guidance explains that alcohol beverages are covered every bit as much as a McMuffin. The Womble Carlyle law firm explains that this initiative is on a very fast track, with some elements (such as calorie disclosure) already binding as of enactment of the law six months ago, well before the regulations get written or finalized. It’s a good time to be in the calorie measurement business.
This needs to include a requirement of showing ingredient lists for spirits and alcohol. Once you have dealt with a diabetic who loved vodka for years and had no problem, but now cannot consume it because of added glucose, you will fully understand why it is absolutely necessary.
Randy Lee says
Interesting. That means that the big chains technically wouldn’t be having micro beers on the menu because micro beers (the smaller batch ones) can’t give that information reliably and certainly won’t have it any time soon.
TTB says they aren’t going to change the label stuff without further input. Right.
Randy Lee says
This thing bugs the hell out of me because of the small batch nature of craft beer (small like the bottom 2/3 of the market, not like Summit or whatever). No batch is the same as the last time and there are a LOT of one off’s even in packaging breweries (there is the whole unplugged series at New Glarous) where the packaging is the same but the beer changes from release to release.
This labeling thing is assuming kraft beer, not craft beer. I suppose you gotta expect that when the people running the gov’t think a small employer is one with only 100 employees. 🙂
Randy what do you mean about “TTB says they aren’t going to change the label stuff without further input”?
Randy Lee says
I had expressed similar concern to Sen. Kohl who forwarded it to TTB asking for a response (cc’d to him). I’ve been looking for reply here and can’t find it but it basically said that they wouldn’t be doing this label change without further input or some such. The impression I got was that it was paperwork-speak for “it’ll be a little while yet, don’t worry till it comes”
So, from what I can tell, TTB is still on track for requiring nutrition labels on products to conform, more or less, to FDA requirements. Which means a whole pile of small breweries will be lying all the time (who’s even going to be getting the first batch right?)