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U.S. Approves Seagram Ad Campaign

August 14, 1985|BRUCE KEPPEL | Times Staff Writer

A federal regulatory agency has approved the contents of a controversial advertising campaign launched recently by the distillery firm of Joseph A. Seagram & Sons that argues that typical servings of wine, beer and distilled spirits have "equivalent" amounts of alcohol.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' position was contained in a letter released by Seagram on Tuesday.

The letter, by the bureau's deputy director, William T. Drake, states that an evaluation of medical and scientific information from the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism led the agency to conclude that Seagram's contention that the servings of alcohol in typical beverages are equivalent and "are not false and misleading."

Edgar Bronfman Jr., president of the House of Seagram, said in a statement accompanying release of the letter: " Equivalence is not only valid, it is a vital piece of information for drivers, pregnant women, people with the disease of alcoholism and any other adult." The doctrine is included in the drivers manuals of 34 states, including California, he added.

Representatives of Winegrowers of California, which had sharply challenged the ad campaign, called the bureau's position "beyond our understanding." The wine growers group is to meet with the bureau next week to rebut Seagram's contention.

The group has compiled a bibliography of 41 medical and scientific studies that demonstrate, a spokesman said, that Seagram's statement that typical drinks of wine, beer and spirits contain "equivalent" amounts of alcohol are "false and misleading." These studies conclude that equivalent servings of alcohol in beer and wine are absorbed into the bloodstream at a different rate and level than spirits, said spokesman Robert Hartzell.

Seagram's ads state that 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1 ounces of liquor, which it describes as "typical" drinks of each alcoholic beverage, contain the same amount of alcohol.

Hartzell accused Seagram of "hypocrisy" in claiming that a 1-ounce serving of liquor constituted a typical drink of distilled spirits. The distillery's guide, "Seagram Distillers' Professional Bartenders Course," suggests a standard jigger of 1 1/2 ounces, with a 2-ounce shot for a martini or a Manhattan, he said.

"The ad would imply that a glass of wine, a martini and a bottle of beer are equally potent--and they're not," said Ed Schwartz, another Winegrowers spokesman.

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