It is likely that all beer, wine and spirits labels will change dramatically in the near future. TTB has been working on new rules since CSPI and other groups submitted a petition in 2003. The new rules would require a “Serving Facts” panel on every container. This panel would include a lot more information, such as the typical serving size, number of servings per container, calories, carbohydrates, protein and fat. Because this is a big, controversial change, TTB has received more than 18,000 public comments during the past few years. There are far too many comments for most people to review, and so we will highlight and summarize the most noteworthy comments here. The most recent proposal and comments are here. This is comment 3 in a series; to see others, click on the “serving facts” tag below.
- The AMA believes “The public desires and deserves accurate information on ingredients and potential allergens in alcoholic beverages.”
- “Consumers are confused about the type and amount of alcohol” in newer products such as wine coolers, “alcopops,” and “high malt content beer products with names and packaging deceptively similar to those of same-brand distilled spirits.”
- Roughly half of all alcoholic beverages are consumed by persons with alcohol use disorders.
- “Serving Facts” should appear in a consistent manner across all labels, all containers including kegs, and even all ads.
- All labels and ads should disclose all ingredients (such as caffeine, additives, preservatives).
- The Serving Facts panel should show alcohol based on grams of ethanol, and “proof” should be phased out.
- Labels and ads should show a “standard drink” (equal to about 14 grams or 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol). They should also show the number of servings per container in fluid ounces of pure alcohol. This should be done with a “consistent graphic symbol.”
Camper English says
Number 5 would be a huge change if truly all ingredients had to be listed. Not only do liqueur brands like Benedictine and Chartreuse have very secret recipes and ingredients, even spirits like vodka can have additives like glycerin up to a certain amount. I’m not sure it’s a bad thing to have this change, but it would ruin many brands that rely on their mystique.
Camper: I don’t think TTB has any plans to require FDA-style ingredient lists, like you see on cookies. Instead, TTB is contemplating a requirement to disclose nutritional information like calories and carbohydrates. And later, allergens like nuts and wheat. And then there is the existing requirement to disclose functional components like colors and sulfites and caffeine. The simple label is fading away. I believe glycerin is okay in many products like liqueur and flavored vodka but should not be used in “vodka.”
Bob Skilnik says
The TTB still has to contend with the harsh demands of the Center For Science In The Public Interest (CSPI) which wants nutritional info, allergens and ingredients on adult beverage labels. The TTB also has to negotiate with the EU since they are about to mandate nutritional labeling requirements too and want worldwide conformity for trade purposes.
Change is coming and it has the tailwinds of consumer support and NAFTA-inspired conformity behind it with a soon-to-be standardized world market of beer, wine and booze labels. Without acceptance by U.S. drink manufacturers, it’s conceivable that the import/export markets of beers, wines and spirits would come to a halt; but be assured, that that will not happen.
The label format will be generalized so as to work with all alcoholic products. It will be clumsy. There is no fat in beer, for instance, but to be ready for a drink such as an Irish Cream-type product, a measurement for fat will be on beer containers, as silly as it is.
What every article ignores, however, is the fact that the TTB will give the drink industry 3 years to achieve conformity with federal labeling standards. Of course, that still means that the TTB will have to come up with an acceptable standard that will please consumers, the drink industry and the EU.
Thanks Bob. And also, what will CSPI ask for next? After serving facts and allergens?
I don’t see much harm in showing zero fat for beer. It’s a nice, clear way of confirming that it has no fat.