TTB shut down most operations on October 1, 2013. Even before that, many labels and formulas and permits were substantially jammed up. When TTB comes back, the detays are likely to be brutal. More details here.
In the first week of February 2011, TTB advised beverage companies that label and formula approvals may take up to 90 days or so — and those applications will be handled on a strictly first-come-first-served basis. After many years or even decades, TTB will no longer allow “expedites,” even in the most urgent circumstances. Before this change, it was entirely possible to get an urgent label approval within 2-3 days. Details here. Several months later, TTB began allowing “accelerated” processing, but only in extraordinary circumstances.
Back in late 2010, even though our government seems incapable of balancing budgets or agreeing on much, virtually the entire governmental system mobilized to squish Joose and Four Loko like a bug.
These drinks (containing both alcohol and caffeine) are controversial, but the controversy and challenges do not seem to have slowed the rate of new product introductions. Here is a list of more than 180 TTB-approved alcohol beverage products containing caffeine. That is, in each case the label specifically mentions the addition of caffeine, guarana, cola nuts, cocoa, coffee, tea or yerba mate. A large percentage of the products on this list were approved since the fall of Sparks and Tilt.
Then, on November 12, 2009, FDA aimed a bazooka at most such products with added caffeine. FDA sent a letter along these lines to about 30 of the below-listed companies. It is worth noting that a big portion of these brands fell by the wayside a long time ago.
- On March 10, 2010, Robert Lehrman moderated a NABCA panel about caffeine-alcohol beverages. The panel was entitled “TTB and FDA: Working Side by Side to Regulate Alcohol Beverages”and included Martin Hahn, Scott Winters and Marlene Trestman.
In a June 24, 2009 speech at the 2009 TTB Expo, TTB Administrator John Manfreda confirmed that President Obama’s 2010 budget called for TTB to derive almost all of its funding from user fees. The fees would cover retailers, wholesalers, importers, and producers, and would range up to $1,000 per year (totaling about $84 million per year). Around the same time, a group of industry associations pressed the House Subcommittee on Appropriations to drop the tax. By early July, a Senate subcommittee had rejected the proposal, as reported by the National Association of Convenience Stores.
TTB’s May 22, 2009 Newsletter explained further:
The recently released President’s budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 proposes a significant change for TTB funding. In the past, TTB has been funded by Congress through appropriated resources. The FY 2010 budget proposal transforms TTB from an appropriated Bureau to an entity that will generate fees in order to fund its operations. These fees will shift the burden of paying for the services we provide from the general public to the parties in the alcohol industry.
To accomplish this, legislation will be proposed to allow TTB to establish a permanent program for FY 2010 and the future fiscal years, requiring the payment of annual fees from its industry members. The fees will range from $300 to $1,000, and will vary depending on the type and size of the business entity. In general, these fees will support the Bureau’s core mission and the funds will be used to continue to provide benefits to retailers, wholesalers, breweries, wineries, distilleries, and industrial alcohol businesses. In particular, TTB’s efforts will continue to ensure that alcohol products are not contaminated, misbranded or illegally marketed, and will prevent dishonest persons from entering into the alcohol distribution system.
While this approach has been proposed under the President’s budget, the final decision as to the method of funding the Bureau will ultimately rest with Congress. It our belief that non-appropriated funding through an industry targeted fee system will put TTB in a stronger position to move forward with our mission and initiatives in the future.
- A collection of recent TTB label approvals, for absinthe
- swissinfo.ch explains the recent US changes; article by Marie-Christine Bonzom.
- TTB sets forth position on absinthe.
- Label approval for Kubler Absinthe. This is the first authentic Swiss Absinthe allowed in the US in more than 95 years; it is from the birthplace of absinthe (Val-de-Travers, Switzerland), and it was the first authentic absinthe (with Artemisia Absinthium, fennel, anise, and thujone) to obtain TTB formula approval.
- Reuters and The Washington Post explain the recent changes.