In September 2020, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, quietly updated its policies concerning calorie counts for wine, distilled spirits, and malt beverages. When labeling calorie statements, producers are now allowed a 20% variance.
While this may not seem like a HUGE deal to some, it shines a light on a bigger problem in food production. We are being lied to.
Understanding the TTB ruling:
The TTB Procedure 2004-1 determined that the statement of calories on labels needed to be within a range of +5 or -10 calories of the actual amount. Essentially, that means that a 100-calorie drink could be in the range of 90 to 105 calories when the product was analyzed for its actual calorie count.
However, with the new ruling, TTB 2020-1, broadens that range to 20%! According to the new TTB ruling on its website, this change was requested by its industry members. Now, drinks that are labeled 100 calories could actually have up to 120 calories! The TTB ruling is designed to “help producers provide nutritional information to restaurants” that must provide nutritional data to their patrons.
Why you shouldn’t trust labels:
You may think that 20 calories extra on a drink isn’t too bad. The problem isn’t that alcohol producers are legally able to mislabel their items. According to the TTB, the change in tolerance is based on FDA regulations:
“The FDA food labeling regulations (see 21 CFR 101.9(g)) provide, in pertinent part, that subject to certain exceptions, a food with a label declaration of calories is deemed to be misbranded if the calorie content is greater than 20 percent in excess of the value stated on the label.”
Essentially, food producers now have the same 20% variance in labeling that alcohol producers do.
There’s a 20% margin of error that shouldn’t slide. If you’re counting calories, that’s potentially 20 extra calories for every 100 calories, or 400 extra calories per 2000 calories daily. According to Harvard Health Publishing, that’s an extra 30 to 60 minutes of exercise to burn those calories.
Let’s congratulate the alcohol industry for its labeling policies by making it easier for brands to provide nutritional information, but let’s NOT forget that labels aren’t 100% truthful.