Action Alert: Help Strengthen U.S. Dietary Guidelines on Alcoholic Beverages

Health Issues

Please take a moment to submit comments on the section on alcoholic beverages in the upcoming 2005 edition of the U.S. government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  It is very important that the committee preparing the guidelines hear from consumer and public health groups that want the public to receive clear, complete and accurate information on alcohol consumption.


Please join CSPI in urging the committee to strengthen the Guidelines' provisions on alcohol and adolescents, alcohol and older persons, and caloric content of alcoholic beverages.  Background, talking points, and instructions for submitting comments are included below.


Thanks in advance for your help!



The National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act of 1990 (Pub. L. 101-445, Title III) requires the Secretaries of HHS and USDA to publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans at least every five years.  The Guidelines include a section on alcohol, about which both public health advocates and industry representatives have commented in the past.  In August 2003, the two agencies named a 13-member panel to hold a series of meetings to review current scientific evidence and make recommendations to the Secretaries for the year-2005 edition of the Guidelines.


Action Needed:

Written comments from outside groups to be considered by the committee will be accepted throughout the process, which is expected to be completed in June or July 2004.  The committee will hold the third of an expected four meetings on March 30-31 meeting.  Comments to be distributed to the committee at that meeting are due by March 19 at 5:00 pm.


Please submit comments to:

Kathryn McMurry

HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Room 738-G, 200 Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20201


Talking Points:

  • While the current Guidelines provide sound information about the potential risks of excessive consumption, some elements could be improved to provide more information and better guidance for consumers.  Those include: (1) drinking by children and adolescents, (2) drinking among older adults and the elderly, and (3) the Guidelines' definitions of the alcohol and calorie content of standard drinks.

  • Given the increased risks related to alcohol consumption among children and adolescents, the Guidelines should spell out a comprehensive rationale to discourage such consumption.  The current version contains no rationale whatsoever.  Better information about the specific risks and new research about the effects of alcohol on the developing brain will help parents and other adults better understand that underage drinking is not simply a "rite of passage."

  • Research documents a wide variety of risks related to alcohol consumption among older adults: hip fractures and other injuries from falls; traffic crashes; depressive disorders; combining alcohol with various medications; late-stage alcoholism; increased risk of intoxication and adverse effects; and decreased level of tolerance to alcohol.  In keeping with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's recommendations, the Guidelines should advise that: "Older individuals (65+) should limit their consumption of alcohol to no more than one drink per day."

  • The Guidelines' definitions of "standard" drinks and calorie content should be revised to account for recent trends in new "non-standard" (often highly caloric) alcohol products and the consumption of mixed drinks containing distilled spirits.  In addition, calorie information on alcohol should be more prominently highlighted, either by featuring it in a box separate from the current side-bar on moderate drinking or by some other means.


March 16, 2004

Related Links:

CSPI's Comments on Alcoholic Beverage Consumption

Dietary Guidelines 2005

February 2003 Washington Report

November 2003 Washington Report

August 2003 Washington Report



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