"Light" beer, wine and whiskey would have to list their calories, carbohydrates, protein and other contents under rules proposed Tuesday by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
A series of sweeping rule changes governing "light" and "lite" alcoholic beverages and their advertising was published in an effort to solicit reaction from the public and industry.
Debated Since 1980
The proposal was the latest step in a debate that has been under way since 1980 over labeling of low-calorie beer, wine and whiskeys. Calorie content labels for these products, and other rule changes, had been sought by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based consumer group.
The number of low-calorie alcoholic beverages, generally sold as "light" or "lite" products, has increased sharply in recent years, generating public interest and confusion, according to industry observers.
The new rules are in response to changing perceptions by the public, the agency said.
Especially regarding beer, the term light has traditionally referred to the color and flavor of products.
Today, however, to many consumers the word light connotes low or reduced calories in a product, and the changes in regulations are aimed at recognizing that status, the bureau said.
The rules would allow use of the word "light" to describe certain characteristics of a product such as color or taste, as long as it was clear what was being described. In those cases, the content analysis would not be required.
Any use of the word "lite," however, would require calorie and content labeling.