U.S. winemakers are concerned that a new Food and Drug Administration rule requiring restaurants to post calorie counts for food and alcohol may become costly for vintners that provide wine to chain restaurants.
The trade association that represents 600 U.S. wineries, WineAmerica, has hired lobbyists from D.C. firm Meyers & Associates in part to press the FDA to allow wineries to provide an estimated range of calories for categories of wine — as opposed to exact calorie counts for each specific wine, which the wine industry says would require costly testing.
It costs about $500 per wine to conduct testing for detailed calorie information, said Michael Kaiser, director of public affairs for WineAmerica.
“If you’re a small winery making 10 wines, it’s just another step to take before taking products to market,” he said. “It’s cost and time.”
The new FDA rule is part of the Affordable Care Act, and it went into effect Dec. 1. The requirement applies to establishments that operate 20 or more restaurants, and it applies to alcoholic beverages listed on menus, but not those ordered at the bar.
The rule applies to the restaurants that serve the alcohol — and not the beverage manufacturers that make it. Still, the wine association wants to make sure restaurants do not ask wineries to provide them with exact calorie counts, but rather accept estimated ranges of calories based on alcohol content, Kaiser said.
That would mean, for example, wineries could disclose that a 5-ounce glass of wine with 13 percent alcohol has between 130 and 140 calories, as opposed to testing to find the exact calorie count for every specific wine.
The wine association is also lobbying the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which regulates the labeling of alcoholic beverages, to keep the disclosure of nutritional information on wine labels voluntary. A bureau rule finalized in 2007 would have made the labeling mandatory, but it has not become a permanent rule.
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