TTB Should Allow, Not Mandate Nutritional Labels

Last month I penned an article for in which I asserted that some large alcohol producers were in favor of the nutritional label mandate that TTB, the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, has been considering. As a follow-up, I interviewed Guy Smith, the executive vice president of Diageo, perhaps the leading producer of alcoholic drinks throughout the world (they make beverages such as Guinness, Smirnoff, Jose Cuervo, and many others) to get their perspective on the prospective mandate. The article, “Voluntary Nutritional Labeling on Alcohol Is the Best Recipe,” appeared on BigGovernment earlier this week.

While Diageo and other alcohol beverage manufacturers strongly support the idea of allowing nutritional data to appear on bottles, they currently support doing so on a voluntary basis. “Let the marketplace decide. If companies don’t think their consumers want labels then don’t have labels, but don’t prevent us from telling our consumers what’s in our products,” said Diageo Executive Vice President Guy Smith.

Smith explained to me that Diageo has actually been petitioning TTB for many years to allow them to have labels which include nutritional data about their drinks — but TTB has refused their requests.

In last month’s article, I noted how detrimental a mandatory labeling requirement would be for small beer brewers and the consumers who like the variety they offer. Because craft breweries produce fewer barrels and more varieties of beer, testing and labeling their many different beers could be cost-prohibitive, resulting in companies reducing the number of beers they make, reducing the states to which they distribute, or getting out of the brewing business entirely. According to the Brewers Association, a trade group representing small brewers, the estimated annual cost for compliance with a mandatory labeling requirement would be could be as high as $18,000 for brewers producing less than 1,000 barrels a year and more than $350,000 for brewers making more than 100,000 barrels a year.

The way I see it, TTB ought to get out of the way of the labeling process for all producers of alcohol and let them decide what information they disclose. Such an environment would likely result in more disclosure and wider variety of “light” beers with fewer calories for the health-conscious consumer.