In the Doghouse

In the Doghouse

Devotion Vodka's Transparency Hides Its Poisonous Product

Proudly endorsed by Jersey Shore's very own The SheepuationDevotion vodka is hiding something behind its nutrition label—the alcohol. They're very up front about the 96 calories per serving, and certainly proud of the 0g of sugar and cholesterol. In that "healthfulness," Devotion joins Michelob and a growing host of other alcohol companies to tout the healthfulness of their booze. Devotion CEO Drew Adelman touts the brand's status as "the first company in a large pool of brands to feature a nutrition label on our bottles, ‘baring all’ with pride," according to MediaPost Agency Daily. But all of this hides the fact that alcohol-related harm has never derived from sodium, sugar, cholesterol, trans-fats, FODMAPs, or anything like that. Alcohol-related harm has always derived... from alcohol.

This is not Devotion's first attempt at cornering the "healthy booze" market. Alcohol Justice featured them on the front page of its 2011 report on Questionable Health Claims by Alcohol Companies" after it infused its product with protein and a casein (a body-building supplement). Despite the enthusiastic support of renowned fitness icons like Jersey Shore's Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, the brand has now pivoted away from the physical fitness angle and towards an earthier health consciousness. Now billed as sugar-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, and American-made, Devotion seems to be striving to reach the patriotic organic farmer with Celiac disease.

Yet the ultimate problem remains: Devotion is highly distilled alcohol. According to the NIAAA, alcohol's toxic effects on the body include: damage to the heart muscle, elevated blood pressure, fibrosis and cirrhosis of the liver, inflammation of the pancreas, weakened immune system, and increased risk for cancers of mouth, throat, liver, and breast. Ironically, there is little evidence that vodkas—even grain vodkas—contain any gluten in the first place. Alcohol itself causes a number of acute digestive problems, including GI pain, inflammation, bowel issues, and inhibited nutrient absorption, which are similar to those attributed to gluten. But if Devotion is to be believed, stomach pains are due to pizza crust, not the caustic, clear organic poison called alcohol. By tying itself to the values of simplicity and transparency, Devotion is pulling the wool over its customers' eyes.

Hardees/Carl’s Jr. Pushes Budweiser® Beer Cheese Bacon Burger

a man reviews the budweiser beer cheese bacon burger Fast Food/Beer Co-Marketing Targets Youth

On October 27, 2016, sister fast food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s rolled out the Budweiser® Beer Cheese Bacon Burger, going beyond questionable nutrition into the promotion of alcohol-based harm. Co-branding fast food with Budweiser is irresponsible and dangerous. On any given day, over a third of all children and adolescents—from age 2 to age 19—have eaten at a fast food restaurant. That number may be even higher in young adults; according to a 2013 Gallup poll, 57% of 18 to 29 year-olds consumed fast food at least weekly.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, adolescents and young adults are extremely vulnerable to alcohol-related harms, both behavioral (e.g., drunk driving) and developmental (e.g., laying the groundwork for later alcoholism). So if youth and young adults are going to seek out fast food restaurants, prominently exhibiting beer logos further normalizes drinking, even building the expectation that a meal ought to be accompanied by alcohol.

Moreover, in this instance, the co-branding may give AB InBev (the makers of Bud)—and any global alcohol corporation that follow its lead—an excuse to overstep voluntary industry guidelines and/or local restrictions against youth marketing. Billboards for these alcohol-branded products could easily be placed in close proximity to schools and other youth-centered locations, since it’s "really" just an advertisement for a burger.

The Hardees/Carl's Jr. CEO, Andrew Puzder, who cynically employed this partnership, may well be promoted to Trump's Cabinet. A little over a month after his chains released the Budweiser® Beer Cheese Burger, Puzder was picked for Labor Secretary by President-Elect Donald Trump.

ad for the budweiser beer cheese bacon burger, to the shame of good beer cheese everywhereThere are suggestions that this outreach to vulnerable youth is intentional on behalf of Puzder. In the past, Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. has been notorious for running overtly exploitative ads linking highly sexualized women to their products. When challenged by Entrepreneur, Puzder insisted the ads were “an appeal to youth, so it really reaches a broad demographic.” Studies on underage drinking show that no other brand is as often implicated in binge drinking as Bud. If the company is unapologetically conscious of the appeal sex has to an underage audience, it’s hard to give them a pass on the appeal of booze.

"This nefarious co-branding co-mingles hamburgers designed for youth with a product that should never be marketed to youth," said Bruce Lee Livingston, ED/CEO of Alcohol Justice. "We urge our members and colleagues to contact their members of Congress to condemn this deliberate and reckless disregard for youth, public health, and safety. While Alcohol Justice is not offering an opinion on Puzder's cabinet appointment, this is a golden opportunity for Congress to question him for his motives behind marketing alcohol taste and sexism via youth-oriented fast food.”

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress that marketing beer through fast food is a bad idea.

Top photo: food blogger Matt Zion, via Grubstreet.

Bears Not Beers: Don't Let Budweiser Invade Our National Parks

A crushed Budweiser can littering a forest.It is no secret that the National Park Service (NPS) is choked for funds. In its efforts to raise revenue, the service has struck a deal with Budweiser, allowing branded signs and sponsorships—an effort that a large coalition of public health, industry watchdog, and substance use prevention organizations condemned as “a mistake that should not be repeated.”

Public Citizen and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood led the group to co-sign an October 27th letter criticizing the partnership with megabrewer AB Inbev, makers of Budweiser. The group warns that alcohol branding in public parks will “encourage underage drinking and damage the reputation of national parks as safe spaces for children and families.”

The branding agreement was the brainchild of NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis. For almost 20 years, the service has adhered to Director’s Order 21, which prohibited donations from any product or company that would “reflect adversely on the NPS mission and image, such as alcohol or tobacco products.” However, last year, Jarvis led the Service to sign a $2.5 million deal with AB Inbev, allowing the brewer to use NPS icons such as the Statue of Liberty and promote Bud-branded events within the parks themselves. According to the Denver Post, Jarvis heralded the deal as “aligning the economic and historical legacies of two iconic brands.”

Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, dismissed the deal as accommodation to corporate interests. “This deal isn’t a slippery slope,” he told the Post. “It’s a bungy jump.”

Budweiser joins several other alcohol producers in seeking to align themselves with active, outdoor lifestyles. However, a brand as large as Budweiser has associated itself with many other things, most which the NPS should be reluctant to sign off on: stock cars; sexist iconography and language suggestive of sexual assault; and, notably, youth alcohol use. Bud and Bud Light alone may account for 20% of underage binge drinking

Importantly, alcohol companies have a documented history of using social responsibility and philanthropy to both whitewash their image and reach new markets. NPS should not be an accessory to this. Alcohol Justice is proud to be a co-signee on the letter, and calls on Director Jarvis to restore the integrity of Director’s Order 21—preserving our parks as a refuge from corporate interests, alcohol advertising, and youth exposure to an all-too-pervasive public health threat.

TAKE ACTION: sign the petition to Respect Our Parks.

READ MORE from Public Citizen.

FULL TEXT of the letter to the National Park Service.

An image of a granite face with hashtag Respect Our Parks