What's low carb?

Government will set standards for beer labeling

Apr 9, 2004 - A division of the U.S. Treasury Department plans to set advertising and labeling standards for low-carbohydrate alcoholic beverages, which have become increasingly popular as Americans turn to the Atkins, "South Beach" and other low-carb diets.


The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau set interim standards for the use of terms such as "low carbohydrate." A beer must have less than 7 grams of carbohydrates to be labeled or advertised as such. It said a product may be labeled as containing "reduced" or "lower" carbohydrates if it includes more than 7 grams of carbohydrates but less than the regular version of the product.

These rules won't be a problem for beers such as Michelob Ultra, Aspen Edge from Coors or Miller Lite (which has begun to advertise its low-carb status). Michelob Ultra contains 2.6 grams in a 12-ounce bottle, as does Aspen Edge. Miller Lite has 3.2. In fact, Bud Light has 6.5 and Coors Light 5.0.

A "regular" beer, such as Budweiser or Coors, generally contains 10-13 grams of carbohydrates. Craft, or microbrews, sometimes contain a few more carbs. New Belgium Fat Tire, for instance, has 13.7, Pete's Wicked Ale 17.7, Redhook ESB 14.2 and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale 12.3.

The new standards also would prohibit statements claiming that low-carbohydrate alcoholic drinks may play a healthy role in a diet. The bureau said it plans to set permanent standards on the issue in the near future.

- More carb counts.