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.