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Most alcoholic beverages (such as beers and wines) don't list the ingredients or nutritional information. Why is this? Is there a special exception for alcoholic beverages?

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    Not speaking for Canada, but in other countries (e.g. EU) there is a specific exemption. Are you asking why or how alcohol was exempted and what reasons were offered for this, etc, or do you just want a citation of the appropriate rule in Canada?
    – Stuart F
    May 22 at 8:44
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    @StuartF It depends on the beverage: Beer in Germany has an ingredient list (Wasser, Gerste, Hopfen - water, barley, hops) while wine only offers its grape type (e.g. chardonnay). Spirits like Vodka or whiskey generally have neither ingredients nor food values but alcohol content - but whiskey does often offer some descriptor how they might taste like or how they are made (e.g. storage in these or those barrels) and gins do usually advertise with the choice of their botanicals... it'S tricky.
    – Trish
    May 22 at 8:50
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    @Trish my understanding, or assumption, really, is that information such as gin botanicals is typically given for purposes of marketing rather than compliance with regulatory requirements. In other words, there's little point in flavoring your booze with parsley and aging it in sandalwood flasks unless you're going to let people know you've done so.
    – phoog
    May 22 at 10:47
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    IIRC in the USA alcohol is exempt because it's under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and not the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
    – Sam Dean
    May 22 at 14:59
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    @Trish wine is supposed to be made entirely from grapes, so it does list its ingredients. See the 1980s Austrian wine scandal for what happens with violators.
    – jwenting
    May 23 at 7:24

2 Answers 2

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Is there a special exception for alcoholic beverages?

Yes

Standardized alcoholic beverages (those with compositional standards in Division 2 of the FDR such as beer, wine, rum and bourbon whiskey) are exempt from the requirement to show a list of ingredients on the label [B.01.008(2)(f), FDR].
This also applies to icewine which, in addition to meeting the prescribed standard in Volume 8 of the Canadian Standards of Identity document, also needs to meet the wine standard in Division 2 of the FDR.

But this only applies to standardized alcohol (as laid out in B.02 of the Food and Drugs Regulations)

They are also exempt from the nutrition facts if they have an alcohol content of more than 0.5% :

Beverages with an alcohol content of more than 0.5% are usually exempt from carrying a Nutrition Facts table [B.01.401(2)(b)(i), FDR].

Except in the cases where this doesn't apply (Reasons for losing the exemption)

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    Is there some motivation to these exceptions? Putting the calory content should actually be useful to consumers and adding things like the sugar or fat content is probably not very enlightening but not difficult either.
    – quarague
    May 22 at 9:57
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    @quarague I suspect that a lot of the motivation is attributable to tradition and history, but also that traditional alcohol products are fairly standard and their health effects are either well known or easy to find. Of course, this is changing. For example, appreciate beer with ingredients listed because I prefer to avoid beer brewed with added sugar.
    – phoog
    May 22 at 10:52
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    @quarague I suspect it has to do with the fermentation process and how variable it can be, especially for small producers. If you go to a small winery or brewery, each batch can be wildly different in terms of taste and alcohol content since it depends on live organisms digesting sugars. Of course larger distributers have this process fine-tuned, but it would be very difficult to require that information for smaller companies.
    – David K
    May 22 at 14:10
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    I could also see a possibility that it started with not listing the ingredients because purveyors of an exclusive beverage (and alcohol can get very pricey) might claim it's a matter of trade secrets (never mind that they could probably list "natural flavors") and probably evolved into "We don't want to tell consumers that our $120 vodka and our $7 vodka has the same stuff in it".
    – SCD
    May 22 at 16:48
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    @DavidK The same could be said for makers of yogurt, cheese, bread, kimchi, or any number of other products of fermentation, but we still make them list ingredients... May 23 at 15:11
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Beers do list their ingredients - generally malt, hops, water, yeast. They also show the % alcohol by volume. I

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