Have you ever been enjoying a bottle or can of beer and were curious about the ingredients inside? Or how many calories were you consuming? You then turn that bottle or can around, only to find no information at all!
Beer is not required to list calories, ingredients, or nutritional information because it is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Beer, and all other alcoholic drinks, are regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which does not require any labeling for nutritional information.
But no nutritional labeling does not mean there is no regulation whatsoever. If you’d like to know more about why the TTB does not require nutritional labeling and what requirements beer does have, keep reading!
Why does beer not have a label with calories, ingredients, and nutrition info?
This is where we will dump everything about the tobacco tax and trade bureau, the history of food/alcohol labeling, etc. Focus on adding a lot of important dates and facts here.
In the United States, the agency in charge of regulating all food labeling and nutritional disclosures is the FDA. Because beer is not under the jurisdiction of the FDA, and the agency that does oversee beer, the TTB, does not require labeling, beer does not have any nutritional labels. But why is beer not under the FDA?
The FDA does not regulate beer and other alcoholic beverages due to the US’ unique history with alcohol. In 1919, the US ratified the 18th amendment, which banned the production and sale of any alcoholic products. This was passed in response to a new wave of religious revivalism, which believed alcohol contributed to extreme sin in society.
Prohibition was extremely difficult to enforce, and speakeasies became commonplace in every urban center in the United States. Because of this, the 18th amendment was repealed in 1933 and replaced by the Alcohol Administration Act.
The Alcohol Administration Act was the catalyst that became the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or the TTB. This bureau regulates all alcohol and tobacco instead of the FDA. Hence, this is why today there is no nutritional labeling on these items like there is on other food and drinks.
What information is a beer label required to include?
While the full nutritional breakdown is not required by the TTB to be included on the label, there are some regulations for what must be included:
- Brand Name
- Name and address
- Net contents
- Alcohol content
- Decleration of sulfites
- Name and address of importer if imported
Certain breweries may opt to add more information than is legally required if they choose. However, other than the items listed above, they do not have to include anything else.
The only exception to this is if a beer is advertised as a ‘low carb’ beer. To regulate and prevent false advertising, if a brewery is claiming their beer is low carb, they must include nutritional information on the label to support this claim.
However, the requirement is still very lax under the ‘low carb’ rule, and often it is a voluntary decision in labeling by the company.
Will beer be required to have a nutrition label in the future?
The TTB is an active agency that is constantly working on amending and clarifying its regulations regarding labeling. 2013 was when the TTB made labeling nutritional information optional, and ever since, activists have attempted to push for stricter regulations.
Proposals are frequently submitted to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau that recommend changes to labeling regulations. The most recent ruling by the TTB provided some clarification on requirements as well as consolidating certain regulations.
Here are the most recent articles adopted by the TTB:
- “Make the regulations governing the labeling of alcohol beverages easier to understand and easier to navigate. This included clarifying requirements, as well as reorganizing the regulations in 27 CFR parts 4, 5, and 7 and consolidating TTB’s alcohol beverage advertising regulations in a new part, 27 CFR part 14.”
- “Incorporate into the regulations TTB guidance documents and current TTB policy, as well as changes in labeling standards that have come about through statutory changes and international agreements.”
- “Provide notice and the opportunity to comment on potential new labeling policies and standards, and on certain internal policies that had developed through the day-to-day practical application of the regulations to the approximately 200,000 label applications that TTB receives each year.”
How many calories does a beer normally have?
Luckily, despite the lack of regulation regarding beer labeling, it is not impossible to find out the nutritional information of most beers.
Here is a list of a few different types of beer and their nutritional breakdown to give you some insight into the calories present in beer:
|Budweiser Select light beer||99.4||3g||0g|
|Samuel Smith Imperial Stout||257||21g||1g|
|Founders All Day IPA||150||10.9g||0g|
|Miller High Life Light||110||7g||0g|
|Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barley Wine Ale||288||24.6g||0g|
If you are curious to learn more about the different caloric levels of beers and other alcoholic drinks, check out this full list here.
Where do the calories in beer come from?
You may be wondering why beer has so many calories. It’s a drink, isn’t it? Despite being a liquid, beer contains some of the highest caloric counts of all alcoholic beverages.
The calories in beer come from the fermentation process, which creates alcohol. The natural starches and sugars that are used in fermentation have a lot of calories. Even if these are dissolved in the process to create beer, their calories are still present.
That is why it is important to be mindful of the calories present in beer, which differ from calories in food. They differ because there is no nutritional value to beer calories. They provide no energy or support to your body the way protein or fat calories do.
Because of this, it is recommended to limit your consumption of beer to no more than 14 units a week. Ideally, less than that, and to not consume beer regularly.
What are the ingredients in an average beer?
If labels were a requirement by the TTB, there would be a common ingredient list you would see on labels with some slight variations.
The core 4 ingredients in all beer are hops, barley, yeast, and water. These are the essence of beer and are typically used for fermentation. Different types of beer will include some variations and new ingredients, but these four will almost always stay consistent.
What is the nutritional content of the average beer?
If labeling were required for the nutritional content, the average beer would likely look like this:
- 151 calories
- 0 grams fat
- 0 milligrams cholesterol
- 25 milligrams sodium
- 13.7 grams carbohydrate
- 1.1 grams protein
- Trace amounts of calcium, potassium, and phosphorus and many of the B vitamins
Of course, if you reference the earlier sections, I mention the different types of beer all have different calorie counts. This is simply an average estimate of the nutritional facts for beer in general.
Why does alcohol not have nutrition facts in the UK?
While the UK does not have the same regulatory history as the US, they too do not have nutritional facts labeling on their beer.
In the past, the EU regulations on beer labeling applied to UK law. “Alcoholic beverages greater than 1.2% ABV are exempt from the ingredient list and nutrition declaration requirements … though the Member States may maintain national measures on the listing of ingredients.” However, now that the UK has left the EU, there has yet to be any news on whether this regulation will change.
Only time will tell if the UK will implement stricter labeling requirements, though, given the other nations’ lack of requirements and no recent updates on the requirements, it is not likely.
Why does alcohol not have nutrition facts in Canada?
In Canada, they have a very straightforward reason why they do not include nutritional labeling on their alcoholic beverages.
Canada’s alcohol does not have nutrition facts because there is no nutritional value to alcohol. They simply assume that it is bad for you and support drinking in moderation. However, many Canadians support including nutritional facts despite this logic.
Canadian researchers believe knowing the nutritional facts will bring awareness to how bad alcohol is for your health. And may promote limiting consumption when citizens see the high-calorie count.
Why does alcohol not have nutrition facts in Australia?
In Australia, the lack of nutritional regulation is largely due to a legal loophole in their system.
Australian regulations require all food to have nutritional information on their labeling, with the one exception being alcohol. Alcohol in Australia is exempt from pretty much all labeling requirements. The main disclosure that is needed is ABV, as well as a pregnancy disclosure that drinking may cause harm to unborn children.
As we’ve seen in Canada, Australian citizens have not seen any major movements to increase labeling requirements. The most recent change being considered is including sugar and carb labeling regulations.