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Kai Ryssdal: One would like to think the Treasury Department’s big priority right now is fixing the economy. And it may well be. But a group of consumer advocates have something else in mind. They’ve written to Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner, asking for nutritional labels on alcoholic beverages. Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer takes it from here.
Nancy Marshall Genzer: The Treasury Department collects excise taxes on alcoholic beverages. So, it’s been stuck with deciding whether ingredients have to be listed on labels. Michael Jacobson is executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. He says, sure Treasury is busy saving us from economic doom, but consumers are thirsting for information on what’s in their wine, beer and liquor.
Michael Jacobson: Artificial colorings, preservatives, foam enhancers — all kinds of things that we thought consumers had a right to know about.
The consumer groups even got manufacturers on board, although they don’t agree on exact labeling. The Beer Institute joined the cause in 2005. Jeff Becker is the institute’s president. He knows Treasury’s busy, but…
Jeff Becker: I can fully appreciate what priorities are. That said, it’s not a political issue at all. It’s pretty straightforward.
Treasury has issued a proposed rule on labels, but it has to be finalized. So, what’s on a label now? To find out, I checked out the champagne at a downtown Washington liquor store.
Marshall Genzer: Picking out a bottle of brut — let me just turn it over — and about all they’re telling me is alcohol 11 percent, and it contains sulfites.
Nichole Engdahl was doing a little New Year’s shopping in the store. Sure, labels are important, she says, but don’t bug Treasury now.
Nicole Engdahl: You’ve got to be kidding me. We’ve got too many other problems right now that we need to focus on.
But Treasury is with the consumer groups, in spirit. A spokesman told me he hopes a final resolution is reached in the near future.
In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.
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