Principles that should govern the labeling of alcoholic beverages

In order for alcoholic-beverage labeling to be informative, helpful, and effective, and meet basic public health standards, TTB’s proposed labeling requirements must meet the following criteria:

1. Labeling rules concerning important consumer information must be mandatory, rather than voluntary. Voluntary labeling would serve the interests of producers, rather than consumers, and could lead to more confusion about alcoholic-beverage choices.

2. Information labeling rules for alcoholic beverages must be universal and consistent, and apply to all alcoholic beverages. Today’s rules, which provide for different labeling of various types of alcoholic beverages make no sense.

3. Some proposed label information is more important and meaningful than other proposals. Information about calories, alcohol content, serving size, and ingredients, for example, would assist consumer choices and help drinkers regulate their alcohol consumption. “Nutrition” labeling of protein and fats would generally provide irrelevant and useless information.

4. Alcoholic-beverage labeling must be clear, comprehensive, and utilitarian. Experience with food labels suggests that consumers look for key information about the foods they eat. The nutrition panel has been an effective means of informing consumer choices and “alcohol facts” labeling could be equally helpful.

5. Allergen labeling should follow FDA requirements. Producers should disclose the presence of any major allergen intentionally added to an alcoholic beverage, subject to the limited exemptions permitted in FDA law.

6. The consumer benefits of labeling can be significant and the costs of requiring informational panels is trivial. 

7. TTB should require the disclosure of nutritive information and comparisons to a company’s “regular” products in labeling and advertising that include specific nutritive claims (e.g., light, low-calorie, reduced-calorie, low-carbohydrate, reduced-carbohydrate). Producers should provide information to avoid misleading consumers about the actual characteristics of the product or its difference from other products in the marketplace. 

8. If TTB explores the adoption of international labeling standards for alcoholic beverages sold in the U.S., all attempts must be made to ensure “upward global harmonization.” Labeling rules should meet international best practices, and should be adopted in a transparent process that involves all stakeholders, including consumer and health advocates.

9. Alternatives to labeling are inadequate and would be ineffectual. Forcing consumers to call a toll-free number or search the web to obtain information about alcoholic beverages would defeat the purpose of labeling and would continue to leave most alcohol consumers in the dark about important items, such as alcohol content, serving size, calories, etc.


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