Time to Comment on New Label Rules

Serving Facts panels added and alcohol content rules revised

by Jim Gordon
Washington, D.C. -- Wine industry members will have 90 more days to comment on one of their least favorite regulatory issues at the federal level --mandatory labeling of serving sizes, calorie and carbohydrate content. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is extending the deadline to Jan. 27, 2008, for public comments on Notice No. 73 about these additional labeling and related advertising rules.

The proposed rules re-affirm that alcohol content by volume must be stated on wine labels, and also add a requirement that a Serving Facts panel must be added to labels. A Serving Facts panel (long required on food and non-alcohol beverage packages) would have to include the single serving size as a reference to make the other information relevant, the number of servings per container, the number of calories per serving, and the number of grams per serving of carbohydrates, fat and protein. The regulations will go into effect three years after they are approved.

A recent survey showed that new labeling regulations are almost universally opposed by California wine executives. This portion of the revised labeling rules process has been split off from the consideration of allergen labeling, which is proceeding on a different track. When the combined rule changes were first proposed in 2005 (Notice No. 41), the TTB received more than 18,000 comments.

A Serving Facts panel, In addition to being posted on the package, will also be required on any advertising that makes or implies claims about a wine's calorie or carbohydrate content.

Time to Comment on New Label Rules
Sample for a 375 ml bottle that lists alcohol content elsewhere on the package.
Currently, wines between 7% and 14% alcohol are not required to declare their alcohol content on the package, if they are labeled as Table Wine or Light Wine. This exception would go away under the new regulations.

Vintners will have two options for declaring the alcohol content of their wines. If they continue to display the alcohol content as they do currently, their Serving Facts panel does not have to include the alcohol content. But if they choose to display alcohol content in the Serving Facts panel, they will need to also disclose there the ounces of alcohol per serving.

Art Resnick, TTB spokesman in Washington, said the serving size does not establish a government recommendation for how large a standard drink should be, but is a reference point for consumers.

Time to Comment on New Label Rules
Sample for a 750 ml package that shows alcohol percentage and volume per serving.
The regulations say a serving size for wines from 7% alcohol to 14% alcohol is 5 ounces. The serving size for wines at more than 14% alcohol is defined as 2.5 ounces.

The tolerance for variation in alcohol content is 1.5% for wines with 14% or less, and 1% for wines with more than 14%. These are the same as in current regulations.

The proposed rules are identified in the Federal Register as Notice No. 73, Labeling and Advertising of Wines, Distilled Spirits and Malt Beverages (Serving Facts Labeling). To open a PDF copy of the proposed rules, click here.

To submit comments electronically, to get information about where to mail your comments, or to read comments already submitted, go here. Then go down the page to Optional Step 4, select the category of Docket ID, enter the docket number for these rules, TTB-2007-0062, then submit. To view existing comments, next click on this same docket number on that page.
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