U.S. Dietary Guidelines Includes Favorable Language For Beer Industry Stakeholders


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture yesterday released the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The guidelines, issued every five years, are “designed to help Americans eat a healthier diet,” and could help shape future federal nutrition policies.

Both the Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association issued press statements applauding changes to Appendix 9, which outlines suggestions for alcohol consumption.

The most significant update, at least for beer industry stakeholders, is the inclusion of language that clarifies the definition of a “standard drink,” and recognizes, for the first time, that all alcoholic drinks are not created equal.

As stated, appendix 9 reads:

“Packaged (e.g., canned beer, bottled wine) and mixed beverages (e.g., margarita, rum and soda, mimosa, sangria) vary in alcohol content. For this reason it is important to determine how many alcoholic drink-equivalents are in the beverage and limit intake.”


The guidelines also now feature a table, which clearly describes the “drink equivalents,” for beers and wines of varying sizes and ABV, as well as distilled spirits and mixed drinks.

“NBWA is pleased that HHS and USDA have recognized that the definition of a standard drink can be misleading and generate confusion for consumers,” Craig Purser, NBWA president and CEO said in a statement.

Additionally, the new guidelines also include language stating that “drink-equivalents are not intended to serve as a standard drink definition for regulatory purposes.”

“We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture have recognized that drink-equivalents are not intended to serve as a standard drink definition for regulatory purposes,” Jim McGreevy, the Beer Institute CEO, said in a statement.

In McGreevy’s mind, the USDA’s recognition that a “drink is not a drink,” helps to strengthen the beer industry’s case for lower excise taxes and shields beermakers from potential attacks by spirits lobbyists looking to equalize the federal excise tax rate for all alcohol producers.

The majority of U.S. beer is currently taxed at $18 per barrel (31 gallons), with reduced rates for producers making less than 2 million barrels. Spirits producers, however, are taxed at $13.50 per proof gallon.

“The concern has always been that the hard liquor industry is interested in seeing the federal excise tax on spirits be equal to that of beer,” McGreevy told Brewbound. “Any argument that they can espouse that shows a drink is a drink could potentially be used in a legislative debate on equalization of taxes.”

The guidelines, in their entirety, can be found on the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion website.