TTB to Allow, Not Require, Nutritional Labeling on Alcoholic Products

It’s a rare occasion that we get to praise government agencies. While the federal agency governing alcoholic beverages certainly took it’s time to make a ruling on nutrition labeling on alcoholic products — a topic it has been considering since 2003 — it appears the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax, and Trade Bureau (TTB) ultimately made the right decision to allow, not require, companies to add a “serving facts” nutrition panel to their labels. According to a press release dated May 28, 2013, the TTB reviewed the issue of having a “serving facts” statement on beer, wine, and spirits — something that the spirits suppliers have been asking for — and it concluded that it will allow, but not require the use of nutrient analysis in labeling as well as advertisements.

Happily, companies will not have to apply for approval for a new label, so long as the added nutritional facts panel follows the example provided by TTB and they may include information regarding the serving size, number of servings in a container, calories, carbs, protein, and fat per serving.

This is good news because there had been some talk in the past about requiring all suppliers of alcohol to add this nutritional information to all of their products, a change that could have been disastrous for some smaller producers of alcohol and consumers who like variety. As I wrote back in 2011:

“Craft brewers on the other hand, produce a wider variety of beers, and far fewer barrels of each one, so they will struggle with the cost of testing and labeling the nutritional contents of their many beers. In its 2008 comments on the TTB labeling requirement proposal, the Brewers Association, which represents more than 1,400 U.S. small brewers, estimated that the annual cost of compliance with the proposed labeling requirement 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.”

Requiring all suppliers of alcohol to label their entire line of products would almost certainly mean that smaller wine makers and brewers would have to reduce the range of products they sell and/or raise their prices. While this guidance issued by the TTB is a stop-gap until it issues regulations regarding nutritional labeling, let’s up that the voluntary aspect remains part of the plan.