A coalition of consumer groups today announced an important victory for the American public: the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has agreed to issue proposed rules requiring standardized alcohol content, calorie, and allergen labeling on all beer, wine and distilled spirits products. TTB also agreed to begin preliminary rulemaking on mandatory ingredient labeling.
TTB’s decision comes after three national consumer organizations – the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America, and the National Consumers League – sued TTB on October 3, 2022, for failing to act on a 2003 petition to require alcohol labeling with the same basic transparency consumers expect for non-alcoholic beverages and food products. CSPI’s litigation department filed the complaint on behalf of the three organizations in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Based on evidence that alcohol is a significant source of empty calories and increases the risk of certain cancers, alcohol use disorders, traffic accidents, and severe injuries, the 2003 petition specifically called for listing the amount of alcohol and calories per serving, the percent alcohol by volume, the serving size, the number of standard drinks per container, and other needed information to make fully informed drinking decisions. These consumer groups also petitioned for an ingredients listing on all alcoholic beverages, something that is a standard feature for other food products and particularly important to those with allergies or other chemical sensitivities.
As a result of the lawsuit, TTB committed to publishing three rulemakings covering mandatory nutrient and alcohol content labeling, mandatory allergen labeling, and mandatory ingredient labeling within the next year.
In addition to the lawsuit, the groups applauded the House and Senate Appropriations Committee for including report language in the FY23 Financial Services and General Government bill urging the agency to take action on this critical rule.
“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.”
“All we have requested over these two long decades is the kind of information that consumers expect when purchasing other foods and beverages,” said Peter Lurie, Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “We hope TTB can move quickly on this long overdue action.”
“Better labeling requirements for alcoholic beverages will allow consumers to make more informed decisions,” said Thomas Gremillion, Director of Food Policy at Consumer Federation of America. “Consumers have a right to consistent, reliable, and relevant information about the products they buy. For too long, the alcohol industry has kept consumers in the dark, and TTB’s announcement is an important step forward.”
The 2003 citizen petition was submitted to the Treasury Department by CSPI, CFA, and NCL and a coalition of 66 other organizations and eight individuals, including four deans of schools of public health.
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