Labels Won't Solve Obesity and Alcoholism; Personal Freedom Proves a Better Alternative Than Government Mandates

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 31, 2010 | Go to article overview

Labels Won't Solve Obesity and Alcoholism; Personal Freedom Proves a Better Alternative Than Government Mandates


Byline: Angela Logomasini, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The National Consumers' NCL says the absence of nutritional labeling on alcoholic beverages contributes to everything from alcohol abuse to obesity, and they want the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to do something about it. But the regulations they are pushing are unlikely to solve the ills they describe.

TTB had proposed nutritional-labeling mandates in 2007 when the NCL and the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the agency. After receiving a large number of public comments, TTB chose not to finalize the rule. Now the NCL is renewing pressure for agency action by capitalizing on problems unrelated to alcohol labeling.

For example, the NCL suggests that the abuse of caffeinated alcoholic beverages on college campuses is somehow related to labeling of those products. In a recent press release, the group exclaims: The nine college students who went to an emergency room for alcohol poisoning after drinking too much of a caffeinated alcoholic beverage earlier this year may not have realized just how much alcohol they were consuming .. Maybe if the standard drinks per container had been required to appear on the labels, they wouldn't have made that mistake.

Does the NCL really think that college kids will moderate alcohol intake because of a government label? It's more likely that college students would use such labels to select drinks with the highest levels of caffeine and alcohol. After all, that's why some of them abuse these products: to get a caffeine or alcohol buzz. Back before these drinks were available, college kids used to drink cough medicine (apparently some still do) to get the same effects. The problem here is not the lack of good labeling.

Similarly, it's highly unlikely that alcohol-labeling mandates will cure our obesity problems, as the NCL also suggests. Consumers already have sufficient access to caloric information online. And it's also conveniently available on smart-phone applications that include calorie information on everything from alcohol to bread and butter. Putting this data on a bottle of wine won't suddenly make people do what they can easily do now: count alcohol-related and other calories. …

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