Consumer group: 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines falls short on alcohol, sugar recommendations

For immediate release: January 6, 2020

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

Washington, DC –At a time when almost 75 percent of American adults are overweight or obese and as many as six in 10 have one or more diet-related chronic disease, such as diabetes and hypertension, the National Consumers League (NCL) is concerned that the just released 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans do not contain clear recommendations on added sugars and alcohol consumption that can help reverse these trends.

While stressing the importance of consuming mostly nutrient-dense foods and beverages – especially fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and poultry – the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines fall short when it comes to advice on limiting added sugars. Despite the urging of the independent Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to recommend that Americans reduce their consumption of added sugars to 6 percent of daily calories, the 2020-2025 guidance continues to allow for up to 10 percent. This is worrying because added sugars, which include high fructose corn syrup, maltose, sucrose, molasses, corn sweetener and fruit juice concentrates, are ubiquitous in foods and beverages and contribute only calories but no essential nutrients.

“We are greatly disappointed that the latest dietary guidelines make no progress in educating Americans about moderate drinking, despite compelling evidence of excessive alcohol use in the country,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “As the new Dietary Guidelines itself acknowledges, about half of the estimated 66 percent of adults who drink alcoholic beverages report binge drinking – sometimes multiple times a month. Americans need significantly more information to make responsible drinking decisions than is now contained in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines.

Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy continues to be a problem in the United States. Specifically, one on ten pregnant women reported consuming alcohol with an average intake of two or more drinks on the day in question.

On a positive note, the latest guidelines define a standard “drink” as 12 fluid ounces of regular beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine, and 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (all equaling 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol). However, the reality is most adult Americans don’t know this and consider a “drink” to be the contents in a glass, bottle, or can.  Thus, it is challenging to follow the dietary guidelines advice to limit consumption to two drinks or less for men and one drink or less for women.

For this reason, the National Consumers League is renewing the call for the federal agency that regulates alcoholic beverages – the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) – to mandate an easy-to-read, standardized “Alcohol Facts” label on all beer, wine and distilled spirits products on an expedited basis. Our call for alcohol labeling goes back to 2003 when NCL and 76 other organizations first petitioned TTB to require alcohol and nutrient content information on alcoholic beverage products, including the serving size, amount of alcohol (in fluid ounces or grams) per serving, number of calories per serving, and the percent of alcohol by volume.

“Unfortunately, we are still waiting for alcohol labeling and the American public is paying the price in higher rates of chronic diseases, depression, learning and memory problems, and serious injuries, such as motor vehicle accidents, falls, drownings, and burns,” said Greenberg.

According to a study published in the July 31, 2020 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate an average of 93,296 deaths (255 per day) and 2.7 million years of potential life lost in the United States each year from excessive alcohol use at a cost to the economy of $249 billion in 2010 alone.

“Only with comprehensive alcohol labeling will Americans have the facts to heed the advice on alcohol consumption contained in the newly released 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines and for the public health community to have the tools to reduce excessive drinking in a meaningful way,” said Greenberg.


About the National Consumers League (NCL)

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