US Treasury Department Sued Over Alcohol Labeling
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US Treasury Department Sued Over Alcohol Labeling

Treasury Department Seal

The seal of the US Treasury Department in Washington, DC, on April 2, 2022. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP) (Photo: STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

A collation of consumer groups sued the U.S. Treasury Department in order to push for a decision on alcoholic beverage labeling. The collation members include the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the National Consumers League (NCL). The lawsuit was filed today in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Most food and beverages are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. However, most alcohol labels oddly fall under the Treasury Department. Currently, the Treasury has put in place voluntary systems for companies to self-regulate their product labeling. Therefore, it is up to companies what information is displayed in relation to nutrition guides and allergy information.

“The problem is many manufacturers have decided they can sell more by telling consumers less,” said Lisa Mankofsky, CSPI’s litigation director.

NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg said, “We hope that our lawsuit will bring about the kind of robust labeling of these products that consumers have come to expect on every other food and beverage item they consume.”

The new lawsuit follows a 19-year-old petition from Dec. 2003 that urged the Treasury Department to require alcohol labeling similar to other foods and beverages. This petition argued that labeling helps consumers make more informed choices and protects those who can have severe reactions to additives.

“Consumers have a right to know what’s in the beverages they drink, whether those beverages are alcoholic or not,” said Thomas Gremillion, Director of Food Policy for CFA.

The rum community often has had issues with a lack of transparency by producers. This is especially true when it comes to particular rum brands in relation to age statements and the addition of sugar and colorings to their spirits. Additional regulations may help to solve some of the confusion in the rum industry but might spell disaster for some companies if they cannot adapt.

The previous petition was filed during the Bush administration, so it will be interesting to see how the Biden administration and the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen handle this new lawsuit.

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