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Josh Burstein

Josh Burstein

Posted: December 10, 2010 12:59 PM

The Booze News

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Madison, Wis., is the only city that employs an Alcohol Policy Coordinator, a position created solely for a town that has roughly one bar for every 500 people. I am a recent alumnus of the University of Wisconsin, and I can assure you that many undergraduates aim to shed their freshman 30 and holiday lbs, but the one thing that never, not once, crosses their minds, is cutting booze from their diet. So why is it that when counting calories, there are nutrition facts on the side of a bottle of Dasani H2O that reads goose-eggs, yet no comparable information appears on a can of Milwaukee's Best?

Alcohol is the anomaly in the beverage community because there is a lobby that wants you to keep that beer gut. The Food and Drug Administration requires nutrition facts by law - it's more than force of habit for Little Debbie. But beer is regulated by the Treasury department's Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which has no such requirement. Other than a logo and the government warning that keeps expectant moms from drinking and driving, TTB doesn't ask for much. They're big on small government and that's sobering.

I may not rise to a Julian Assange level of megalomania, but I do side with him on the desire for transparency. When an issue this spirited remains this foggy, and no one is demanding pertinent information, then no bottler will set a precedent that has a potentially negative side effect on their bottom-line.

When an industry does not regulate itself, consumers have to define a role for government. As things stand, voluntary disclosure for liquor manufacturers merely allows so-called "sport beers" to use nutrition facts as a marketing ploy. A girl needs to know that each Sex on the Beach she orders equates to drinking a Big Mac, and that does not equate to sex on the beach.

If it's time for twenty-one birthday shots, no health reminder on the side of a bottle will deter consumption, but for the casual consumer, it makes a difference. Better to have conscious decision makers marching down the aisles of Riley's Wine and Liquor than witless revelers. This way, smart shoppers can celebrate over a pitcher of Guinness after a Rose Bowl victory, fully aware that it is not the worst bad decision they're going to make that day.

 

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