This lecture, presented by Town Hall Seattle and sponsored by PCC Community Markets, is titled “Ask Marion: The Politics of Food and Nutrition.” It’s at 7:30 pm Seattle time and 10:30 pm New York time. Get tickets here.
Currently browsing posts about: Alcohol
The New York City Health Department has produced a handy guide – a tool kit, actually – to soda tax legislation. It explains the rationale, reviews the evidence supporting the use of such taxes, provides fact sheets, and answers Frequently Asked Questions. For the academics among us, it provides loads of reference citations. Take a look and put it to good use!
Update January 30: FoodNavigator.com did a report on reaction to the soda tax bill, “Fresh New York soda tax plans stir up the obesity debate.” It’s got a great quote from the American Beverage Association:
What’s particularly disconcerting about this proposal is that the tax on a 12-pack of non-alcoholic beverages, like soft drinks, would be more than 9 times higher than the state tax on a 12-pack of alcoholic beverages, like beer.
This, as you might expect, has stirred up some counter-proposals, the most obvious being to increase the tax on alcoholic beverages. Now that ought to generate some additional revenue!
While we are on the subject of alcohol, a forthcoming paper by Barry Popkin is said to have some interesting trend data:
Among adults aged 19 and over, SSB [sugar-sweetened beverage] consumption had almost doubled from 64 to 142kcal/day and alcohol consumption had increased from 45 to 115 kcal/day [from 1977-2006].
Popkin’s conclusion: “The consumer shift towards increased levels of SSBs and alcohol, limited amounts of reduced fat milk along with a continued consumption of whole milk, and increase juice intake represent issues to address from a public health perspective.”
The FDA announced today that it has sent letters to 30 makers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages warning them that caffeine is not approved as an additive to booze:
Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, a substance added intentionally to food (such as caffeine in alcoholic beverages) is deemed “unsafe” and is unlawful unless its particular use has been approved by FDA regulation, the substance is subject to a prior sanction, or the substance is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). FDA has not approved the use of caffeine in alcoholic beverages and thus such beverages can be lawfully marketed….The FDA noted that it is unaware of the basis upon which manufacturers may have concluded that the use of caffeine in alcoholic beverages is GRAS or prior sanctioned. To date, the FDA has only approved caffeine as an additive for use in soft drinks in concentrations of no greater than 200 parts per million. It has not approved caffeine for use at any level in alcoholic beverages.
The FDA asked the companies to provide evidence that the products are safe. It also opened up a new web page on caffeinated alcoholic beverages. This gives samples of letters, the list of manufacturers, and letters to FDA from attorneys general and scientists. There is also a Q and A. For example:
Q3. What happens if the industry doesn’t share its data in the next 30 days? What options are available to FDA?
A3. If FDA determines that the use of caffeine in an alcoholic beverage is not GRAS or subject to a prior sanction, FDA has a range of regulatory options available to it, from the issuance of a warning letter to seizure. It is the manufacturer’s continuing responsibility to ensure that the foods they market are in compliance with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements. FDA intends to exercise all options that are appropriate for the product in question.
As Michele Simon of the Marin Institute puts it, “It seems the sleeping giant has awaken!
Indeed it does. You don’t think this counts for much? Ask the makers of some of these drinks. A couple of companies already have “voluntarily” removed the caffeine. I’m willing to bet that others will soon follow?
You would think that the labeling of organic wine would be simple, but you would be so wrong. Just for fun, here’s who does what in the federal government when it comes to food and beverages. For the most part:
- USDA does meat and poultry
- FDA does everything else
- Except alcohol, which is done by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)
- Except that USDA does all organic food
- Except for organic wine, sort of
- Problem solved: USDA and TTB have made a deal. TTB will do organic wine
- Except that USDA has just changed the rules
Got all that?
I won’t try to reproduce the rules for organic wines; they look too much like what I’ve just written. Take a look at judge for yourself. I’m just happy that all this has been straightened out.
Thanks for Michele Simon of the alcohol industry watchdog, the Marin Institute, for telling me about Kraft’s creative idea for selling more Jell-O: mixed drinks. You have to be 21 or over to look at the site and, I guess, be 21 or over to eat Jell-O? Why do I think this will be a tough sell? Or maybe it won’t?
Sandja, who works for a PR agency, wants me to know about Embodi: “What if you could have all the health and longevity benefits of red wine without the negative effects of alcohol? In fact, what if it came in the form of a delicious and antioxidant-rich fruit drink that you could enjoy daily?
I love the idea that red wine has special health benefits, especially at a really nice dinner. But here comes Sandbox Industries, a company devoted to dreaming up brilliant new business ideas, one of which is Embodi, a non-alcoholic soft drink fortified with polyphenol antioxidants like the ones in red wine. The ads say “now you can have all the benefits of red wine without the headache.” But I thought it was the alcohol in wine, beer, and spirits that was most strongly associated with reduction in heart disease risk.
Alas, Sandja did not send the Nutrition Facts labels and they are not on the website so what is in this drink is a mystery. But that’s not its point. It’s a business venture.
Update, September 4: After reading my post, the Embodi PR folks forwarded their well hidden Nutrition Facts label–90 calories per bottle from 22 grams of sugars. The ingredients? “Water, organic fruit juice blend (organic white grape, organic red grape, organic apple, organic pomegranate, and organic pear juices from concentrate), grape pomace extract, and natural flavors.” No wonder they don’t put this information on the website.
Update, September 6: Oops. The PR folks wrote again and I stand partially corrected. The Nutrition Facts label is indeed on the website. You have to click on the bottle label and up it pops. But the ingredient list part of the label is not (or if it is, I can’t find it). Sandja writes: “There is complete transparency of ingredients and nutrition facts. The grape pomace extract is what holds the health benefits.” I’d say partially transparent.” And the pomace extract is second-to-last on the ingredient list so there can’t be much of it.
Consumer Federation of America (CFA) has a new Alcohol Facts chart out that compares the calorie content of alcoholic beer, wine, and hard liquor. CFA produced it to fill the regulatory gap in labeling of alcoholic beverages–they are regulated by an arm of the Treasury Department (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) and viewed as revenue generators, not something that might affect health. It’s amusing to see where the calories are…
My friend Michele Simon, author of Appetite for Profit, is now working for the Marin Institute, which describes itself as “alcohol industry watchdog.” She sends along a copy of the Institute’s new report on alcohol and energy drinks. In case you were wondering what’s in all those energy and sports drinks, why manufacturers want to add alcohol to them, and what their hazards are, especially to young adults, check this out. I think the drinks taste pretty bad on their own and the alcohol covers the taste, but this report lays out how the manufacturers deliberate target young adults for marketing campaigns that suggest mixing them with alcohol. The report covers the other ingredients in these drinks, things like guarana, ginseng, and–my favorite–taurine, an amino acid essential for cat reproduction.