Saturday, August 16, 2014

A New Low

A New Low, as opposed to an old one. Because proof came today, if it was needed, that we really are entering a new dark age of paranoia, fear and propaganda with respect to alcohol. The kinds of old laws that we like to mock (banning female bar staff etc) really aren't any worse than some of the new ones.

The news I'm referring to is that important, useful consumer information is to be outlawed. I just learned this via Buzz and Hum. It will be illegal in New Zealand to let customers know whether your beer contains gluten. Because that apparently constitutes a health claim and YOU CAN'T MAKE HEALTH CLAIMS ABOUT ALCOHOL.

This is absurd on many levels. First of all, I don't consider labelling beer "gluten-free" to be a claim of a health benefit. It's consumer information (like "contains peanuts") informing consumers of the presence or not of a particular compound in the beer. The distinction between consumer information ("gluten-free") and health claim ("cures cancer") is blatantly, childishly obvious. In fact the author of the applicable regulation must agree that "gluten free" doesn't constitute a health claim because they actually went to the trouble of insisting that it is:
“Gluten free” is captured under the definition of nutrition content claim.
Equally, if not more disturbing, is the larger regulation. It goes out of its way to state that no-one can ever make a health claim about alcohol. Regardless of whether it's true. In fact here's an obvious one - "sterilises wounds". Presumably it's now illegal to print that on the side of a bottle of isopropyl alcohol?

But the fact that someone has seen fit to regulate what anyone can say about alcohol is kind of shocking. There is, I understand, a ton of evidence that people who use alcohol in moderation are healthier and live longer than those who don't touch a drop. When someone makes a regulation that says that this must not be spoken of, it's absolutely chilling. And it's symbolic of how far we've rolled back to the previous era of fear and regulation around alcohol.

Another minor detail... (I'm sure there will be more.) The regulation says "Standard 1.2.7 defines a nutrition content claim as a claim that is made about the presence or absence of a biologically active substance". Errr to the geniuses at Food Safety... what's yeast if it isn't a biologically active substance? So naming yeast as an ingredient must breach this regulation. In fact even stating that something contains alcohol more or less gives away that the product is a result of fermentation thanks to a biologically active ingredient. See where trying to suppress facts leads?

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