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Interview With Lettie Teague

Aired March 2, 2003 - 09:44   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have all heard the claims that a little wine can be good for your health. Now wine makers will be able to put those claims on their labels. Lettie Teague is the wine editor for "Food & Wine" magazine. She's with us this morning to talk about the labeling.
So, exactly what sort of labeling can wine makers do?

LETTIE TEAGUE, WINE EDITOR, FOOD & WINE MAGAZINE: Well, the labeling that they're saying that wine makers, and actually it's also makers of distilled spirits and beer, but the wine makers have been the ones that have been particularly legislating for this. And it's essentially that now, certain health benefits can be acknowledged on the label. With the caveat, however, that at the same time, the risks involved, and the various categories of people that could actually be, you know, that could actually benefit from drinking a glass of wine also have to be outlined.

COOPER: It has to be sort of a very particular warning or -- not really a warning label at all, but it would have to be very specific. It can't just say alcohol is good for your health.

TEAGUE: Exactly, exactly. And in that sense, the way I read it is that they're giving something, but they're also taking something back. I mean, the government is not going to allow any winery or wine maker to say this is an unalloyed good, you know. You also have to tell them the terrible things that are going to happen. So I'm a bit leery of saying, yes, this is a fabulous thing.

COOPER: Well, I suppose it's obvious why wine makers and makers of distilled spirits would want this. Obviously, it would be an attempt to boost sales.

TEAGUE: Right, right.

COOPER: Do you think it's going to work?

TEAGUE: You know, I just don't see many people rushing, that haven't been drinking wine in the first place. Saying, oh, my goodness, now that there's actually some health benefit associated with this, I'll have a glass of wine, like I have a glass of orange juice in the morning or something. This is the healthy thing to do.

I just, I think that wine, you know, essentially, it exists as a social beverage, you know. And I think in that way you know it's a -- I think that wine is an unalloyed social good, in many ways. And as far as a medical good, well, you know, there are definitely benefits, but the government isn't going to say now you can issue all kinds of helpful claims that aren't backed up in sort of multiple parenthetical ways.

COOPER: Also, the claims of health warnings -- of health benefits are sort of vague at best. They talk about moderate consumption. That's sort of open to interpretation.

TEAGUE: I think that's wildly open to interpretation. It's funny. I wrote a column on that couple months back in the magazine, and I interviewed a number of medical professionals, doctors, nutritionists, and various people that have spent their lives researching this. Basically, it all came down to, they couldn't tell me what moderation is.

I mean, sure, the government says, you know, that moderate consumption is one glass of wine a day, you know, sort of maximum, if you're a woman, and two glasses maximum if you're a man. But, you know, even the doctors themselves and some of whom helped put together the guidelines said, you know what, we really don't know. You know, there isn't some basic, average person that, you know that these apply to. I mean, obviously, people are wildly different, you know, and what they can drink, you know, varies as wildly.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Speaking of wild, Lettie. Heidi Collins, here. I was reading some research on this. I do think it's an interesting concept. There was a wine importer who said we thought it would be a better idea for there to be a government warning on the label that actually says beware that this product may lead to pregnancy.

TEAGUE: I think that's what's great about wine is that, you know, you have a glass of wine and actually people look better to you. I mean, that's why it's -- instead of it being something that you're thinking about your health, you're thinking, you know, you've become more attractive and other people do too, you know. That's what they should be writing on labels.

COOPER: Right. I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon. Lettie Teague, wine editor for "Food & Wine" magazine. Thanks for joining us this morning.

TEAGUE: Thanks for having me.


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