Sunday, August 5, 2007

Careful what you wish for...

~I’ve said it before and will say it one more time: wine is not health food. But is wine food at all, and if so, does it promote health?
~Last week I read the following quote by a British spokesperson for
an outfit known as Cancer Research, UK:

“There is a lot of confusion over safe levels of drinking.”

~If the above is not an understatement I’m not a white male blogger looking for an excuse to be heard…
~The spokesperson was referring to the results of a study that her organization just released which says that just one glass of wine or beer a day increases the risk of bowel cancer by 10%.
~A couple of weeks ago I read the results of a Harvard Men’s Health Watch study that claimed men who drink an average of four to seven glasses of red wine per week are 48% less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than men who do not drink red wine.
~By now, all of you must have heard of the 40 or so studies that claim moderate wine consumption is good for us and that the chemical in red wine, resveratrol, protects us from heart disease and possibly cancer.
~How many of you remember the statistics that show how much wine one would have to consume to benefit from the resveratrol?
~The answer is not in glasses a day but in the impossible count of bottles a day.

We don’t remember the negative stats because we want to believe the positive ones.

~The wine industry and its promotional organizations like to shout about the seemingly good news concerning health and moderate wine consumption, plus they like to tell us that wine is good food.
~Fine, but the federal government never believed that wine is food. If it did, it would have given regulation of the product to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
~When the federal government came up with the idea to raise revenue through excise taxes on alcohol, it lumped wine in with evil drink and tobacco—the sin tax mentality.

Wine used to be lumped in with firearms, but after decades of that insanity, the government has un-lumped it—but in name only. If you don’t believe me, apply for a license to produce wine; you’ll feel like you were asking for permission to engage in something unsavory. In fact, it’s probably less of a hassle to get a gun license than it is to get a license to produce wine.

~Anyway, the wine industry and its promo hacks spoke loud and clear about the product’s food value, so loud that they once again awakened the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and other such oxymoronically-named organizations.
~In its infinite desire to make sure that all Americans think and live the way its zealot founder does, CSPI has petitioned the federal government to mandate that wine labels come with nutritional information on them, like all other food labels.
~You would think there are two problems with the nutritional label idea:

First, if, as the government and CSPI have tried to make us believe in the past, wine is not food, why should it contain nutritional information?

Second, the FDA does not regulate wine labels, the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau does (TTB).

Since TTB doesn't regulate food it hasn't required nutritional labels.

~The solutions to the two problems:

CSPI cries UNCLE! OK, the moralists say, wine is food, now put its nutritional value on the label.

The federal government all of a sudden seems to think that wine is food. TTB entertains the idea of mandating nutritional labels on wine and it goes through the motions of asking for public input.

~TTB is likely to mandate the nutritional label, but if it doesn't this time, it will be only a matter of time before CSPI and its friends prevail. Remember, this is the organization mainly responsible for promoting the disingenuous GOVERNMENT WARNING and the meaningless CONTAINS SULFITE labeling.
~Congratulations are in order to the wine industry and its promotion hacks. You've persuaded CSPI and the government that wine is food. I wouldn’t bet, however, on either organization going all the way and referring to the revenue-raiser as health food.
~In fact, after the nutritional labels get onto the bottles, you will then see what CSPI can really do to mess with our lives—watch for the many “new” findings about what is or isn’t contained in wine.
~Watch the FDA; it wouldn’t surprise me if that outfit makes a grab at regulating wine labels.
~Do you suppose CSPI has any friends at FDA?

TTB SeattleTimes Wine&Vines


Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
August, 2007. All Rights Reserved.


  1. TP - Many readers may be unaware of the fact that there exist legal definitions of entities, e.g., food commodities, etc that are far-removed from common sense definitions. More times than not, we have legal beagles, lobbyists, and politicians on Capitol Hill to '"Thank" for such abuses/contortions of the English language.

    Anyone who has perused the history of wine surely appreciates the nutritional properties that wine has offered countless generations of consumers.

  2. Jay,

    The problem is: most of wine's nutritional value is on the margins. It may have nutritional value, but it doesn't offer as much nutrition as the PR people want us to believe.

    That is not to say that in moderation it can't help our bodies function, just that it is inviting trouble to promote the stuff as if it were a health food.

    After the labels are mandated, I suspect that CSPI, et al, will be deluging the public with a variety of conflicting evidence that supposedly proves we have been lied to all along. They'll be able to get away with it because they are a powerful lobbying group and because the evidence connected to wine's nutritional value is itself conflicting.

    There are traces of minerals in wine as well as traces of antioxidants. But there is more alcohol than either, and that is what draws CSPI to the table.

  3. TP -- Don't underestimate problems stemming from clinical and epidemiological studies that harbor inherent weaknesses (unavoidable ambiguities) in their designs and outcomes; problems not unrelated to the questionable extrapolations you justifiably dislike when it comes from PR groups. Distinquishing telltale signal(s) from background noise here, is no small feat.

    "But is wine food at all, and if so, does it promote health? ... The problem is: most of wine's nutritional value is on the margins."

    Cyril Ray's classic, titled "Bollinger," reiterates how the advent of 'MODERN MEDICINE' effectively lead to particular wines and alcoholic tinctures of herbs being displaced from the marketplace by cutting-edge antibiotics and other industrial chemicals (whose deleterious side-effects were often under-appreciated or overlooked as well). Indeed, the AMA and pharmaceutical manufacturers' association are powerful lobbies to be reckoned with also. In the absence of water purification treatments, consumers were/are MUCH safer diluting dubious water sources with beverages containing alcohol if not drinking wine neat. This was an especially vital necessity to sailors (among others) long ago. Not to mention contemporary bacteriostatic effects of lactic acid on other deleterious bacteria -- some of which may inhabit one's GI tract. It thus seems to me that impartial observers can reasonably infer that wine CAN have nutritious and beneficial properties even today. And I haven't touched on minerals, vitamins and various antioxidants (vis-a-vis scurvy)... We probably agree that the world is awash in disinformation. Accurate knowledge and proprietary information are very precious commodities still....

  4. Jay,

    Again, I agree with much of what you post, but my entry has to do with food, not medicine, and it mainly has to do with what could happen when promotion succeeds!

    I believe we would need to drink way too much wine to garner credible nutritional value--medicinal value doesn't require as much.

    There are minimal trace elements in wine and there are perhaps beneficial antioxidants--but of course, the conflicting message on that stuff is overwhelming at times.

    As for the benefits of lactic acid and lactic bacteria, best to get one's daily dose from yogurt rather than from wine.

    My main point, however, is that the PR flacks like to push nutrition and now that they have won the day, the wine industry will be scrutinized even more closely by moralists and the government with nutritional labels and--my prediction--a new round of so-called findings that will be aimed at proving that wine is not a natural, healthy drink, even in moderation.

    CSPI's moral bent includes legally preventing access to alcohol. I believe we tried that once in America...