What's in That Drink?

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We know how many trans-fats are in a serving of butter and how many calories are in a serving of pasta, but most of us don't really know how much alcohol is in that drink.

A margarita, for example, may contain two to three 'standard drinks,' and a bottle of table wine contains five. This means a person having a margarita and sharing a bottle of wine may believe they have only had a 'couple' when in reality they've had four to six.

For those of us who choose to drink alcohol and want to keep our number of drinks within the health and safety limits, we need information. As I've learned, measuring alcohol consumption is less about the number of glasses than it is about the number of standard drinks in each glass. Five ounces of table wine, 12 ounces of beer and 1.5 ounces of hard liquor are all the equivalent of one standard drink. Thus, a Long Island Iced Tea at one location could contain two to three standard drinks, and a couple of stiff vodkas-on-the-rocks at another could put a woman into the binge-drinking category.

If it's important enough to tell consumers about trans-fats and calories, it should be equally important to tell them about their alcohol intake. After all, a lifetime of trans-fats may shorten your life span measurably, but one night of heavy drinking and the embarrassing, hurtful or dangerous behaviors that can occur, could adversely change a life forever.

We need legislation that expands alcoholic beverage labels to include the number of standard drinks per container or serving and requires restaurants and bars to do the same on their menus. Sure it will mean all bartenders have to pour their drinks as their establishment has labeled them; just like packaged food serving contents must meet their labels. And, yes, some people won't want to know how much they're drinking -- just like some people don't want to know how many calories are in the bag of chips they eat.


But with a standard drink label, the person who wants to keep it to 'a drink or two' will know to skip the margarita if they plan to share a bottle of wine.

With a Perspective, I'm Lisa Frederiksen.