Nutritional Facts

In an editorial, Jim Gordon, Editor of Wines and Vines Magazine, recently talked about the Nutritional Facts labeling proposed for wines. Unfriendly as I am to government labeling, mainly because it usually takes the sleaze road rather than the information road, I found myself agreeing completely with Jim’s position. (I can call him Jim, because for some reason, he thinks I am worth paying to write articles in the magazine! You can read his column by clicking the link below).

In brief, Jim’s point is that if we wine industry people want to keep telling everyone that wine is food, then we best allow the government to treat it as such.

Jim was referring to only 50 percent of the new labeling possibilities. His editorial concerned itself with the “Nutritional Facts” portion of the labeling, which, as I said, I agree should be applied to wine.

First, there’s nothing in wine—nutritionally—that is scary. In fact, there are matters which are quite good to know: wine contains no fat and no cholesterol, and while it doesn’t contain much in the way of protein (or in the way of anything else, really, just some trace minerals and possibly B vitamins, but I could be wrong about that) four ounces of wine contains only from 120 to 150 calories—I’d say that’s energy well gathered!

Another of Jim’s points goes right to the heart of the matter for nutritional facts on wine labels, but he only briefly mentioned it. In some states, my home state, New York, being one of them, wine is treated strictly as alcohol and so, you can’t buy it in a grocery store where, incidentally, beer is sold, which I believe also contains alcohol, unless of course it’s from the big beer companies—that stuff can’t possibly contain much of anything but water, but I digress.

Suppose nutritional facts are slapped on wine labels; how long do you think New York State can hold off the beer lobby when the public starts noticing that its regulation preventing the sale of wine in grocery stores is in conflict with the federal government’s claim that wine is food?

The wine industry was given a federal agency proposal for the new labeling and it reacted to a couple of things it did not like. One of its dislikes was the “Serving Size” that appears on nutritional food labels. The wine industry felt that the use of the phrase was almost like telling people how much wine to drink. The government and the industry settled on “Serving Facts.”

Another thing the wine industry did not cotton to was the feds attempt to show on the label a visual that presented a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, and a shot of booze, proposing that each contain the same amount of alcohol. The problem with that visual is that, when you go to a bar, the spirits drink you are served often contains more than the prescribed one-ounce shot of spirits that measures one drink. Plus, some real beers are much higher in alcohol than the American bland beers. I believe the visual is out.

The other half of the new wine labeling concept is the part that special interest groups like the so-called Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) want to see: ingredient labeling.

As you know from reading food packages, whether or not you know what some of the ingredients actually are (what are “natural spices” anyway, or “red die number so and so?”) the labels come with a list of everything that supposedly went into creating the product. The list is organized in the order of volume—the more of one ingredient, the closer it appears at the top, which is why so many products sicken me, as I read the top lines that contain “high fructose, corn syrup, sugar…” After reading that list of cheap diabetes delivery systems, my interest in what is inside the package dwindles to nil.

Wine should come out all right in the ingredient listing message, since, except for the process of fining, filtering, and sulfiting, not much is added to wine. But the problem with ingredient labeling is in the very techniques of fining and filtering. It’s there that watchdog groups are interested, claiming that the material used to clarify (fining) and to filter wine can be allergens.

Admittedly, some of the materials can be allergens. But three extenuating circumstances make me wary of the ingredient labeling rules:

1. Winemakers say that by the time wine is in the bottle, much of the materials like egg white, caseine (milk product) bentonite (clay), etc. have been removed through the filtration process.

2. Except for the rare cases of asthmatic allergies to sulfites, which already has its warning on the label, there aren’t many cases cited of people having severe allergic reactions to wine.

3. CSPI is both a mettle-watchdog group and anti-alcohol. I find suspect anything they propose.

I’m for the Nutritional Facts labels—I am not so sure about the Ingredient labels.

Unlike other foods, where the US Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture regulate labels, the Federal Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regulates wine labels; that’s because, after Prohibition, when it dawned on both federal and local governments that they could gain a windfall revenue stream by taxing wine, the feds gave the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) control over those three industries—it was the government setting up a welfare system for itself!

BATF has been part of Treasury Department. Recently, Treasury changed the organization and created the TTB.

I predict that the nutritional labeling will go into effect in a few years and after that, FDA may get hold of regulating at least the food portion of wine labeling. That would mean that wine would have two federal regulators on its tail, along with the constant irritant of those so-called consumer groups.

NOTE: There’s an organization operating a blog that sells health products to consumers—it goes by the name Healthfullup. Through the RSS feed, this blog lifts and prints my copyrighted material in its entirety from Vinofictions.com, without my permission and without paying compensation.

The organization has ignored my attempts to get it to stop stealing my work, so I am embedding this note in every one of my blogs until they stop or until I gain legal redress. Perhaps, the bloggers won’t even notice this note through the RSS feed, as they seem to lift everything without looking at it–the links I post show up on the blog as part of my text.

The blog is also selling ads through Google’s AdSense program, and I have contacted Google about the matter in accordance with the rules set by Congress to govern Internet copyright infringement.

To my fellow bloggers: watch out for these copyright infringements–they threaten to increase as more and more people discover blogging.

Jim Gordon

Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
November 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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