Jul 052011
Authors: McClatchey-Tribune

Marin Institute released a new study last week that raises concerns about the way alcoholic beverages are marketed as sexy and healthy. Marin, the alcohol industry watchdog, analyzes how the products are pushed in much the way organic or natural foods are being plugged, in “Questionable Health Claims by Alcohol Companies: From Protein Vodka to Weight-Loss Beer,” by Michele Simon and Janna Brancolini, with research assistance from Ryan Treffers.

In the report, the authors conclude that many of the alcohol marketing messages are “legally tenuous, morally unsound, and potentially dangerous.”

“The wine industry has been exaggerating wine’s health benefits for years. Now Big Alcohol is taking such messages to a whole new level,” said Marin Institute’s Research and Policy Director Simon. “Major alcohol companies are exploiting ineffective or non-existent regulatory oversight with deceptive marketing and potentially dangerous products.”

Devotion Vodka (“Infused with Casein”), Fragoli strawberry liqueur (promoted with antioxidants), Absolut, Skyy, and Finlandia vodkas (“infused with natural flavors”), Michelob Ultra, and MGD 64 beer (promoted as fitness and weight-loss aids) are highlighted in the report.

Ad campaigns for these products used terms like “vitamin B enhanced,” “antioxidant nutrients” and “all-natural,” combined with images of fruit or young athletes running or cycling, making these products appear to be logical compliments to a healthy, fitness-oriented lifestyle, without a hint of irony, the report notes.

“Alcohol is not a health and wellness product,” added Simon. “Even moderate consumption is responsible for a wide range of health problems, including heart disease and various cancers, not to mention an epidemic of underage drinking.

Alcohol is not a health tonic; it can cause life-long suffering and destroy families. Where are those messages?”

From the report: “Spirits companies are positioning their vodka as ‘all natural,’ even though the products haven’t changed. Beer companies are sponsoring marathons and running ads showing toned drinkers meeting up at a bar after a work-out. Superstars of grueling, high-endurance sports are being tapped to promote alcoholic beverages” (Lance Armstrong hoisting a beer bottle).

A finger is pointed at “a significant failure in the regulatory oversight of alcohol advertising,” on both the federal and state alcoholic beverage control levels.

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