Food & Agriculture

Alcohol Label “Modernization” Leaves Consumers in the Dark Ages

The Government and Alcohol Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know What You’re Drinking

Statement of Thomas Gremillion, Director of Food Policy

Washington, D.C. Today, the Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) sidestepped longstanding and overwhelmingly popular consumer demand for better information on alcohol labels. In issuing its final rule entitled “Modernization of the Labeling and Advertising Regulations for Wine, Distilled Spirits, and Malt Beverages,” the TTB adopted various amendments to its labeling and advertising regulations, none of which will matter much to anyone outside of the alcohol industry. In comments on the proposed rule, CFA and a long list of consumer and public health groups asked TTB to require that alcoholic beverage labels list alcohol content, ingredients and basic nutrition facts, like all other food and beverage products sold in the United States. Surveys indicate that almost all Americans (94%) support such labeling. CFA and its partners also asked TTB to undertake a congressional reporting process, provided for under the Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act of 1988, with the objective of amending the health warning statement required to appear on all alcoholic beverage labels. That warning statement should make clear that “Alcohol causes cancer.”

TTB has literally failed to respond to CFA’s comments. Rather, the agency has enacted all of the rule amendments desired by industry – for example, clarifying that a malt liquor manufacturer can use the term “strong” – while it “continues to consider the remaining issues raised by comments it received that are not addressed in this document.” In other words, TTB has nothing to say to consumers expecting a reasoned response as to why TTB’s “modernization” of labels and advertising omits the provision of any facts that modern consumers need and clearly want. This “final rule” is of dubious legality and an affront to American consumers.