NCL calls for investigation of direct-to-consumer genetic testing industry in the wake of FamilyTreeDNA revelations

February 27, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC – Reports that DNA testing services like FamilyTreeDNA are sharing genetic data with law enforcement agencies should prompt regulators and Congress to consider new rules to protect consumers from abuses by the direct-to-consumer (DTC) DNA testing industry, said the National Consumers League (NCL) today. The reports about FamilyTreeDNA come on the heels of other revelations about lax data security and the potential for misinformation stemming from consumers’ use of DTC genetic testing kits.

“Our genetic information is literally the code for who we are,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “The value of genetic data to law enforcement must be weighed against the significant potential for harm from misuse of such data. Our DNA data is tremendously sensitive, and extreme care must be taken to ensure that it is not used in unexpected ways or, even worse, misused to harm consumers. Unfortunately, the DTC genetic testing industry has exploded without effective oversight, leaving consumers at the mercy of companies whose primary goal may be monetizing this valuable data, not respecting their users’ privacy.”

Specifically, NCL urges policymakers to take common-sense steps to better protect consumers’ genetic data, including:

  • The Federal Trade Commission should immediately broaden its existing investigations of DTC DNA testing services to determine whether FamilyTreeDNA and similar services have engaged in unfair or deceptive trade practices by sharing genetic data with law enforcement without adequate notice and consent by users;
  • DTC DNA testing websites should collectively pledge to obtain affirmative opt-in consent from current and new users prior to allowing law enforcement agencies access to users’ genetic data without appropriate legal process; and
  • Congress should convene hearings to examine how widespread abuses of consumer privacy by the DTC DNA testing industry are and what, if any, new consumer protection regulations are needed to address the potential for consumer harm in this rapidly growing industry.

For more information about the National Consumers League’s work on privacy issues and data security, visit

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

LifeSmarts program awards scholarships to student leaders from Ellenboro, W.V., Tuscaloosa, Ala., Jefferson City, Mo., and Fredericksburg, Va.

February 26, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—Today the National Consumers League (NCL) has announced five scholarship recipients, honored for their involvement in a community service and leadership initiative made possible through its consumer literacy program, LifeSmarts ( The students were awarded $1,000 academic scholarships for their winning entries based on their experiences serving as Safety Smart® Ambassadors, a partnership between LifeSmarts and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) that pairs high school students with elementary classrooms to teach lessons about health, safety, and the environment. 

The scholarship winners are: 

  • Logan Hostuttler,Ritchie County High School, Ellenboro, W.V. (11th grade)  
  • AylaraOlcmen, Central High School Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa, Ala. (11th grade) 
  • Rebecca Peters, Massaponax High School, Fredericksburg, Va. (12th grade)  
  • Annette Peterson, Blair Oaks High School, Jefferson City, Mo. (12th grade)  
  • Dakota Wayne, Ritchie County High School, Ellenboro, W.V. (10th grade)  

 Since 2013, when the LifeSmarts UL partnership began, more than 350 LifeSmarts students have become Safety Smart Ambassadors. Working in teams, high school students have made more than 1,500 interactive 30-minute presentations sharing empowering and educational safety messages with thousands of younger children throughout their communities. LifeSmarts is a national program that competitively tests high school students’ knowledge of consumer awareness, with subjects including personal finance, health and safety, consumer rights and responsibility, technology, and the environment. This year, LifeSmarts is celebrating its 25th anniversary season. 

“We are so proud of our students who participated in the Safety Smart Ambassador program and the positive impact they made on their communities, and especially these five stand-outs,” said Lisa Hertzberg, LifeSmarts program director. “We truly appreciate this partnership with UL. It has been extremely gratifying to see LifeSmarts students embrace the Safety Smart Ambassador program, provide education and mentoring to younger children, and learn about themselves in the process.” 

“As part of our overall mission to create a safer world, UL has long been committed to increasing scientific literacy, discovery and student empowerment,” said Cara Gizzi, vice president, education and outreach for UL. This collaboration with LifeSmarts continues to strengthen our decades-long relationship with NCL and, work for positive change in the world while empowering the next generation of Safety Smart Ambassadors.” 

The LifeSmarts and UL partnership has underwritten the Safety Smart Ambassador program and provided LifeSmarts with access to the vast knowledge base of UL’s educational programs, including resources for LifeSmarts to bolster its science and environment curriculum, resources, and competitive opportunities. 

For more information, please visit  

Winter 2019 Safety Smart Ambassador award winners – in their own words  

“I think it is very important to teach our youth of the hidden dangers on the internet and teach them ways of how to keep themselves safe. This presentation was a great opportunity for both the presenter and the students attending to learn many new and exciting lessons on online safety.” – Hostuttler 

“I have taught with the Safety Smart program for two years. This year was a complete turn-around for me. I was interacting with the kids more, I scarcely held the script in my hand, I felt more confident, and lastly I really enjoyed myself.”  – Olcmen 

“Being able to explore a different part of my local community that I otherwise may not have been bold enough to approach has changed my perspective.” – Peters 

“I have gained so much confidence, giving me the ability to talk in front of people and do so much more today.  If I hadn’t been a part of this program and presented in front of these kids, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today.” – Peterson 

“I accomplished my goal of getting all the students involved and interacting. I had a great time spending time with these kids and I believe that they really enjoyed us being there to teach them.” – Wayne   


About LifeSmarts and the National Consumers League 

LifeSmarts is a program of the National Consumers League. State coordinators run the programs on a volunteer basis. LifeSmarts educational resources are available online throughout the year at Competition begins again in September. For more information, visit: 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit 

About UL 

UL fosters safe living and working conditions for people everywhere through the application of science to solve safety, security and sustainability challenges. Our nonprofit parent organization engages in standards development, scientific research, education and public outreach activities. Our commercial businesses test, inspect, audit, certify, validate, verify, advise and train and we support these efforts with software solutions for safety and sustainability. The UL Mark engenders trust, enabling the safe adoption of innovative new products and technologies. Everyone at UL shares a passion for making the world a safer place. To learn more about the work of our education and outreach group, visit To learn more about our business solutions, visit

McKinley Technology High School wins 2019 National Consumers League’s Washington, DC LifeSmarts Competition

February 25, 2019

Students will compete in the 25th annual National LifeSmarts Championship in Orlando, FL in April

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC— LifeSmarts announced today that McKinley Technology High School was named the winner of the 2019 Washington, DC LifeSmarts Competition. The competition, hosted on February 22 by the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and the National Consumers League (NCL), tested local high school teams, comprised by teens in grades 9-12, about personal finance, health and safety, the environment, technology and consumer rights and responsibilities. McKinley Technology High School will represent Washington, DC at the 25th annual National LifeSmarts Championship in April in Orlando, FL. Comcast, a sponsor of the competition, awarded the team a $5,000 scholarship for travel expenses.

“We were very excited to host the competition for DC once again this year. Students learn valuable skills and become savvy consumers by showcasing their knowledge in LifeSmarts competitions,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director.

During the competition last Friday, February 22, local high school teams from Columbia Heights Educational Campus, Friendship PCS Technology Preparatory High School, McKinley Technology High School, and the UPO Power Program competed individually and in buzzer-style matches, answering questions about consumer issues that impact everyday life.

“LifeSmarts asks relevant, tough questions. Many adults don’t know the answers. LifeSmarts prepares young people to be stronger, more assertive participants in our economy. I’m proud of our DC LifeSmarts students,” said Bill Cocke, the Washington, DC LifeSmarts co-coordinator.

“Congratulations to the McKinley Technology High School team on your impressive display of real-world consumer knowledge,” said Stacy Burnette, Senior Director, Government & Regulatory Affairs for Comcast’s Beltway Region. “Comcast is committed to strengthening our communities through academic achievement programs and is honored to help these students further their education.” 

The winning team is coached by Sarah Elwell, and students include Team Captain Abenezer Lemma, MarQia Allen, Selam Bulti, David Hounyo, and Natural Taylor. McKinley Technology High School has taken the DC LifeSmarts title in previous years and sent students to national championships, but this is the first year the entire team of seniors have participated in LifeSmarts.


About LifeSmarts

LifeSmarts is a program of the National Consumers League. State coordinators implement the program locally. For more information and to register a team, visit:, email, or call the National Consumers League’s communications department at (202) 835-3323. The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. NCL’s mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information about NCL, visit

Groups call on TTB for alcohol labeling – National Consumers League

February 22, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America, and National Consumers League sent a letter today to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin today criticizing the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) for its proposal to “modernize” the labeling and advertising regulations for alcoholic beverages without requiring key information about alcohol content, serving size, calories, ingredients, and allergen information. The groups petitioned the agency in 2003 to require this information on alcohol labels, and provided survey data showing that the public overwhelmingly supports including this information on the labels of alcoholic beverages. The agency issued proposed rules to require mandatory allergen labeling in 2006 and Serving Facts information in 2007, but has not moved to finalize either rule.

“While the TTB may believe that the issues are complex, the agency has now had over a decade to consider them, and rulemakings to provide this key information are already well underway,” the groups write. “These rules should be prioritized under any effort to modernize alcohol labeling.”

Read the full letter here (PDF).

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit


What broadband privacy? – National Consumers League

When you ask consumers about the kind of information that they’d like to keep private, location data is usually near the top of the list. That’s why Motherboard’s recent investigation into cell phone companies’ location data sharing services is so troubling.

In the sting, Motherboard reporters paid a bounty hunter $300 to locate a phone. The bounty hunter was able to find the phone without any hacking tools. Instead, he used real-time location data originally sourced from the phone’s wireless carrier.

Additional reporting revealed that approximately 250 bounty hunters and related companies had access to AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint customer location data. To put this in perspective, one bail bond firm admitted to utilizing phone location services at least 18,000 times, and other companies used the services thousands or tens of thousands of times.

These kinds of abuses are exactly what NCL and other public interest groups were worried about when we supported the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2016 broadband privacy rules. Those common-sense rules would have prohibited Internet service providers (ISPs) from sharing consumers’ location data and other types of sensitive information without their consent. In particular, NCL filed comments urging the FCC to create strong data security rules for ISPs.

When the FCC adopted its broadband privacy rules in October 2016, it was a victory for privacy and data security advocates. Unfortunately, those rules would be short-lived, thanks to Congress’ decision to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn the rules in March 2017. By using the CRA to overturn the broadband privacy rules, Congress effectively precluded the FCC from ever passing “substantially similar” rules in the future.

The Motherboard investigation has not only sparked multiple responses calling for a more detailed investigation but also proves two important things: it has confirmed that ISPs have been irresponsible with consumers’ data and that broadband privacy rules are still needed.

House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) wrote FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asking him to provide an emergency briefing explaining what the FCC has done to address the broadband privacy issue. Incredibly, Chairman Pai declined. FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks commented on the recent findings saying, “the for-profit location data industry has flourished in the shadows without any government oversight.” Additionally, Motherboard’s revelations prompted calls from senators and FCC commissioners to investigate the cell phone companies’ data sharing practices. While investigations are a good start, real consumer privacy protections can only come through legislation. If you don’t think that cell phone companies should be allowed to sell your personal information without your permission, now is the time to call your Congressional representatives and tell them you want real broadband privacy protections.

Rubio’s bill is an empty promise – National Consumers League

Last month, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined the growing list of Members of Congress, advocacy groups, and industry players who have released privacy bills. Rubio’s bill, the American Data Dissemination Act (ADD Act), exists primarily to relieve Congress of the January 20, 2020 deadline when the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) takes effect. Absent action by Congress, the CCPA, the subject of a furious lobbying campaign to weaken it, will become the strongest consumer privacy law in the United States less than a year from now.

To say that privacy advocates are skeptical of the Rubio bill is an understatement. For starters, the bill makes no mention of stringent enforcement, heightened transparency, or timely notification of violations. Other bills from Senators Wyden (D-OR) and Schatz (D-HI), however, implement sensible provisions. These include defining sensitive information and requiring the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to establish a Bureau of Technology, which would give the FTC more resources to investigate companies. However, Rubio’s bill maintains one stark difference: state preemption. Rubio has made it clear that his bill would preempt state privacy bills like California’s in favor of a federal privacy standard.

In comparison to the CCPA’s strict provisions, such as enforced rulemaking authority and timely notifications to consumers, Rubio’s bill would only give the FTC authority to craft privacy rules if Congress is unable to do so after more than two years of debate.

Rubio justifies this prolonged timeline by suggesting that Congress needs more time to make informed decisions to protect consumers and promote innovation. Rubio claims this approach is sensible because it ensures a non-partisan approach from the experts who are informed on the best course of action.

In reality, Rubio’s bill is a poor option for consumers and companies. For starters, the bill would only allow the FTC to craft privacy rules based on the guidelines in the Privacy Act of 1974. While the Privacy Act may have been timely back in 1974, it is hopelessly antiquated and unable to account for modern technological advancements. The Rubio bill fails to address issues like data minimization or data security standards and fails to broadly define personal information.

Ultimately, the Rubio bill exists to address industry concerns about a “patchwork of privacy bills.” It fails to add any substantive new consumer protections, despite the voluminous evidence that such protections are needed. Rather, the Senator suggests that in order to create a comprehensive data privacy bill, Congress needs more time—time which consumers, in this day of record-setting data breaches and privacy threats, simply do not have.

National Consumers League renews call for legislation requiring child vaccinations

February 11, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DCAfter a harrowing account in a February 6, 2019 Washington Post article about the galloping rate of measles because of state laws permitting parents to forego – for personal or religious reasons — safe and effective vaccines for their children, the National Consumers League (NCL) is renewing its call for passage of strict vaccination laws.

“Vaccinations are proven safe and effective. They prevent diseases like measles, polio, smallpox, influenza, and diphtheria which used to terrify parents and send communities into panic. Vaccines should be seen as a gift of modern medicine. When you decide not to vaccinate your child, you’re endangering your child and your community,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg.  

NCL supports laws that restrict exemptions. Greenberg continued: “Legitimate and well-documented health conditions should be the only reason to not vaccinate your children. The loophole of `personal preference’ or ‘religious exemptions’ has caused the “current epidemic and traffic in fear mongering and unfounded pseudo science. The link between autism and vaccines has been debunked time and again and yet anti-vaxxers persist in spreading bad information and contribute to the dangerous spread of deadly illnesses in their communities.”  

NCL commends California, West Virginia, and Mississippi for allowing only medical exemptions to vaccine requirements. In 2016, NCL honored Dr. Richard Pan, a California State Senator, for his brave leadership on vaccine laws. In 2015, he authored landmark legislation abolishing all non-medical vaccine exemptions, legally requiring vaccines for school-aged children, thereby restoring community immunity from vaccine-preventable diseases. In his acceptance speech, Dr. Pan remarked, “Consumers need accurate guidance on medications that can improve their health, especially vaccines which benefit both patients and the public. NCL has been a strong partner as we strive to combat misinformation about vaccines.”

Unfortunately, most states permit religious exemptions from vaccines, and 17, including Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, currently allow philosophical exemptions. As a result of this policy, 7.9 percent of children in Clark County, WA were unvaccinated. NCL applauds Washington state Representative Paul Harris (R-Vancouver), who has introduced legislation that would ban personal or philosophical exemptions from the measles vaccine. To see where your state stands on non-medical vaccine exemptions, please click here.

NCL’s stance on vaccines

NCL admires the work of health advocates like Dr. Richard Pan and countless others who understand the vital role that vaccines play in protecting our communities. Vaccines are among the safest and most effective public health measures we have. NCL calls on all states to strike non-medical vaccine exemptions. Because of vaccines, we have the luxury of not worrying that our children or our families will contract these once devastating diseases. The measles outbreak is a wake-up call. Our message to parents and adults alike: get vaccinated!


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

NCL expresses disappointment with CFPB decision to leave consumers vulnerable to predatory lenders – National Consumers League

February 8, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DCThis week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) moved to gut its payday lending rule, which was scheduled to go into effect later this year. The agency, now led by Director Kathy Kraninger, is reversing a rule that would have protected consumers from predatory auto title and payday lenders and require them to only lend money to consumers who can afford to repay the loan. 

The following statement is attributable to Brian Young, Public Policy Manager of the National Consumers League: 

“Assessing a borrower’s ability to repay before making a loan is common sense. Whether a consumer is applying for a mortgage or borrowing to pay the electric bill, no one should be given a loan that they cannot possibly pay back. CFPB’s rollback of a rule that would require assessment of a borrower’s ability to repay is indefensible.

“The CFPB’s own data found that 4 out of 5 consumers who take out payday loans with interest rates in excess of 400 percent either default or take out additional short-term loans. A 400 percent interest rate loan is not a lifeline; it is a textbook example of exploitation. The CFPB’s mandate is to protect consumers, not the interests of a predatory industry. The CFPB should do its job and refrain from repealing this critical consumer protection.”


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

Consumer groups, food industry jointly call on USDA/HHS to emphasize portion control in next Dietary Guidelines – National Consumers League

February 6, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay,, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–Three national consumer advocacy organizations and six leading food industry trade associations joined together to call on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to emphasize portion control in the development of the official 2020-2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“One promising, and we think underutilized, strategy for tackling the obesity epidemic is helping consumers understand and implement appropriate portion control,” wrote the National Consumers League, the Consumer Federation of America, and Consumer Action. The consumer groups’ letter to USDA and HHS was cosigned by The Grocery Manufacturers of America, the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance (SFPA), the American Beverage Association, the Sugar Association, the National Confectioners Association, and the American Frozen Food Institute.

A copy of the letter can be accessed here.

The consumer groups and trade associations reminded the government that, “The current version of the Dietary Guidelines merely discusses portion size as an afterthought in strategies to improve diets and fight obesity, with the concept not even mentioned in the guidelines’ executive summary.”

Despite an array of consumer education efforts, including mandatory nutrition labeling on food packages and, more recently, on restaurant menus, obesity is still a dire problem. More than two out of three Americans remain overweight or obese, despite such efforts.

The consumer and industry groups noted that, “Larger portion sizes clearly contribute to increases in the rates of overweight and obesity . . . [we] therefore urge the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, once they are appointed and convened, to focus on portion control as a key strategy to address the rise of obesity and related dietary diseases.”

The National Confectioners Association has launched the Always A Treat Initiative. A central aspect of this voluntary industry effort is providing consumers with more choices in smaller portion sized packages. The founding members of the SFPA have taken similar steps.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has long supported the need for portion recommendations when developing achievable and practical dietary guidance.

The American Beverage Association has committed to offering a wider variety of smaller portion sizes. Members of the American Frozen Food Institute offer a large variety of portion-controlled meal options, and the Sugar Association has publicized that sugar is best enjoyed in moderation.

The consumer advocacy groups and trade associations concluded, “These programs represent cost-effective measures to combatting obesity, but this is only a start. . . . [We] look forward to participating in the deliberations that will lead to the new Dietary Guidelines.”


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

Why nutrition labeling on alcoholic beverages can reduce binge drinking – National Consumers League

Shaunice Wall is NCL’s Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow

Alcohol – like everything else we eat and drink – is best enjoyed in moderation. If consumed to excess, drinking alcoholic beverages can lead to addiction and increased risk of certain chronic diseases, but also weight gain, because these drinks are often dense in calories and devoid of nutrients.

One of the problems consumers face, however, is that there is virtually no information on the nutritional content in the alcoholic beverages they consume. NCL has been working to change this for more than 30 years, but progress on this front has been very disappointing. Does lack of a label cause binge drinking? Of course not, but evidence indicates that caloric and nutritional labeling encourages healthier choices when consumers read and understand the labels.  

What is binge drinking anyway? 
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. For men, it means consuming 5 or more drinks – and for women – it’s consuming 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours. 

A “drink” defined 
A drink” refers to half an ounce of alcohol (e.g., a 12oz. beer, a 5oz. glass of wine, or a 1.5oz. shot of distilled spirits). 

The impact of alcohol consumption and binge drinking 

In 2015, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 86.4 percent of people in the United States aged 18 or older drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, binge drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. More than one in six U.S. adults, or 38 million people, are binge drinkers, and they binge an average of four times a month.

In 2010, alcohol consumption cost America an estimated $249 billion in workplace productivity losses, health care expenditures, criminal justice costs, and other expenses — binge drinking was responsible for 77 percent of these costs, or $191 billion.  

Some nutritional consequences of binge drinking 
In 2018, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that young adults who frequently binge drink were more likely to have cardiovascular risk factors, including higher blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar at a younger age than non-bingers. In addition to malabsorption of several nutrients in the gut, binge drinkers are at risk of malnutrition because alcohol contains calories that may substitute for those in more nutritious foods. Another more common consequence of binge drinking is weight gain, which in turn contributes to the nation’s obesity epidemic.   

The link between alcohol and obesity 

Researchers suggest a positive correlation between calories derived from alcohol and obesity. Alcohol also has an effect on hunger levels and food preferences.  

Alcohol cannot be stored in the body, however, its conversion to acetate in the liver and subsequent release into the bloodstream inhibits the amount of fat the body burns.  

The problem with binge drinking and misleading nutrition labels 

pint of beer may contain as much as 200 calories – the same as a doughnut. Yet, in the United Kingdom, one study found that 85 percent of the population is unaware of or underestimates calories from alcohol. This problem is universal, and–in the United States–this is due in part to misleading nutrition labeling proposals by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which regulates and collects taxes on trade and imports of alcohol. 

Labeling of alcohol can reduce binge drinking 

As noted above, one strategy to increase awareness and reduce the risk of excessive alcohol use is to label alcoholic beverages with serving facts. Listing the ingredients alerts consumers to the presence of any potentially harmful or problematic substances while providing nutritional informationsuch as energy contentallows consumers to monitor their diets and makes it easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  

The impact that such a move could have was illustrated by a small experiment conducted in a UK pub, in which customers presented with caloric information consumed on average 400 fewer calories than those who had access to no such information.  

Obstacles for nutrition labeling of alcohol in the United States 

Labeling requirements for alcoholic beverages are woefully inadequate. The proposals offered by TTB are too little, and they don’t support public health.  

In 2003, a petition by several special interest groups (including NCL) to TTB, claimed that there were substantial disparities in the labeling requirements applicable to different kinds of alcoholic beverages. Wine and distilled spirits labels are required to reveal the beverages’ alcohol concentration – expressed as a percentage of alcohol by volume (additional proof-level statements are optional) – but labeling alcohol content on beer and other malt beverages is entirely optional. Only those alcoholic beverages that make nutritional claims, such as “light” or “lite” beers must disclose calorie content and certain nutrition information. 

There has been no rationale published by TTB for these differences.  

The National Consumers League’s petition  
NCL, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and 67 other organizations continue to advocate for mandatory content and nutritional labeling on all alcoholic beverages. While it may not eradicate binge drinking, consumers who want to consume alcohol in moderation deserve to know what’s in that drink. A label like the Nutrition and Supplement Facts on alcoholic beverages is long overdue.