After Lawsuit, US Treasury Department Commits to Making Changes on Mandatory Alcohol Labeling
On Nov. 21 a coalition of consumer groups announced that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) within the Treasury Department has agreed to issue proposed rules on alcohol labeling. These rules relate to standardized alcohol content, calorie and allergen labeling on all beer, wine and distilled products. The announcement also stated that TTB has agreed to begin a preliminary rulemaking on mandatory ingredient labeling.
“This is a groundbreaking day for consumers,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League. “Consumer advocates have been trying for 19 years to get this far. Now there is light at the end of the tunnel. We thank the TTB for finally taking this action and look forward to working closely with the agency, the industry, and other consumer advocates to make sure this is done right and that consumers are the winners.”
In October, the collation of consumer groups, including Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the National Consumers League (NCL), filed a lawsuit against the TTB in order to push the agency to make a decision on alcoholic beverage labeling. It appears that this strategy was successful.
The lawsuit came after the TTB made insufficient action on a 2003 petition to require more alcohol labeling standards according to the group.
The collation also got recognition from the House and Senate Appropriations Committee which included the group’s report language in the FY23 Financial Services and General Government bill urging the agency to take action on alcohol labeling standards.
In The TTB’s response, the agency appeared to ignore the lawsuit and focus on the 2003 petition. The statements argued, “TTB believes that it adequately responded to the 2003 petition by initiating the 2005 rulemaking.” However, it continued to say that the TTB “will engage in new rulemaking on the issues of nutrient content labeling, expanded alcohol content labeling, major food allergen labeling, and ingredient labeling.”
The new labeling requirements for alcohol are meant to take place within the next year.
The rum community often has had issues with a lack of transparency by producers. The new rulemaking may help alleviate some confusion around dosage or the addition of sugar and food colorings to rum. However, the increased regulations could hurt smaller producers since labeling can require a series of tests. Therefore, future rulemaking may take into consideration smaller businesses and possibly make some exceptions.