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The myth of the ‘standard’ drink

Consumers deserve to have accurate information when making important choices about drinking responsibly (“Driving blind, drinking blind,” Commentary, Wednesday). That’s why the Beer Institute supports the addition of straightforward nutritional information and alcohol content on all beverage labels. That’s why we also support listing the alcohol content of beverages by volume of alcohol.

However, a misguided approach advocated in an April 30 Commentary column threatens to mislead consumers. The authors, George McGovern, a former Democratic presidential candidate, and Dick Armey, the former Republican House majority leader, contend that all “drinks” contain a “standard” amount of alcohol and that this information should be featured on beverage labels. Apparently, the authors are not cocktail drinkers.

As common sense tells us, there is no such standard. The amount of alcohol poured in a single hard-liquor drink can vary from drinking establishment to drinking establishment and from consumer to consumer. As a result, drinks vary considerably in size and strength. The idea of a standard drink is hard to swallow for another reason. It goes against the results of consumer surveys and studies on other food and beverage labeling. The data clearly shows that consumers make the best choices when presented with clear, accurate, commonsense information about a product.

The Beer Institute strongly supports pro-consumer labeling changes, including the addition of a statement of the percentage of alcohol by volume in a visible location on the label. Labeling a beverage’s alcohol by volume arms consumers with useful information to make important choices. The same approach has been used for years in other food products and over-the-counter medications.

The Beer Institute isn’t alone in advocating a straightforward approach to labeling alcoholic beverages. In fact, more than 110 members of the House and Senate supported an effort led by the Beer Institute to persuade the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) — the regulatory agency considering the label changes — to reject label proposals that contain misleading information about alcohol content or “standard drinks.”

We urge TTB to resist the disingenuous arguments of the hard-liquor industry, which would like consumers to believe that all alcoholic beverages are the same. Instead, TTB should make labeling changes that give consumers the right information to make the right decisions about drinking.

JEFF BECKER

President

Beer Institute

Washington

The Wright stuff

Up until now, I never considered Sen. Barack Obama to be a real candidate (“Can’t get it Wright,” Commentary, Friday). Just five years ago no one knew who he was. But now his old friend, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is stabbing him in the back, taking advantage of their relationship for personal gain. The Clintons have had their friends stab them in the back for years. Up until now, Mr. Obama hasn’t been important enough to stab in the back. I suppose now, however, Mr. Obama has arrived. Welcome to the real world of political success.

MARC PERKEL

San Bruno, Calif.

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