Thursday, February 21, 2013

WTF BATF, Censoring Nutrition? -- 184 lbs (-45) [15X]

It never ceases to amaze me how polarized Americans are about alcohol, and how scientific information about alcohol is culturally censored or befuddled in a way that somehow puts it on the same subjective level as religion--despite overwhelming evidence for health benefits of low-dose alcohol. Take, for instance, the story of Bert Grant and the BATF.

The Scotland-born Grant started as a beer taster in the 1940's and worked at Canadian Breweries where several B-complex vitamins were discovered to be found in beer. In 1982, Grant parlayed his experience into starting one of America's first microbreweries—among other things, Bert knew that mainstream domestic beer had nowhere near the high vitamin and mineral content of craft/microbrewed beer. A decade later, he and his wife started putting laboratory-verified nutritional information on cartons of Grant's Scottish Ale informing the public of its B-vitamin contents (in percentage of US RDA):

● B2 -- 4.6%
● B3 -- 14.6%
● B6 -- 13.9%
● B9 -- 62.5%
● B12 -- 170.0%

In January 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms threatened to revoke Grant's brewing license if the informational stickers were not removed, based on a 1954 regulatory interpretation of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act that says "any reference to vitamin content in the advertising of malt beverages would mislead a substantial number of persons to believe that consumption of the product would produce curative or therapeutic effects."

But this was 20 years ago. We now have an administration that actually brews its own beer, so the situation must be fixed, right? Not exactly. True, in January 2003, the BATF was split into the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF--why not BATFE??), thankfully separating law enforcement of legitimate alcohol producers from that of violent criminals. And, true, the TTB "relaxed" labeling guidelines to allow verified statements about calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat in 2004, but the same ruling reiterated their historic position of disallowing any other nutritional information, i.e. vitamin and mineral content.

Now I could launch into one of my tirades here, but that shouldn't be necessary, should it? I mean, isn't it obvious that more information, not less, is the way to encourage people to make better choices? Isn't it obvious that we should be treated like adults, not children or, worse, information slaves? Isn't it obvious that we should know exactly what we are putting in our body so we can maintain a reasonable nutritional balance? ... Oops, I'm doing it anyway, aren't I?

Bert Grant passed away in 2001 at the age of 73. You can read his autobiography here:

Here's to you, Bert, for trying to do the right thing.

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