May 29, 2013 – Every packaged food product sold in the United States includes information on its label about serving sizes, calories, the amount of fat, carbohydrates, protein and other nutritional content. That is…except for spirits, wine, and beer…which get their labeling standards from the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) instead of the Food & Drug Administration.

Until now, the TTB has restricted the use of nutrition information on labels for alcoholic beverages, despite numerous requests from beverage makers to do so. The agency is conducting a regulatory review process (“rulemaking” in regulator-speak) to set standards for so-called “serving facts” statements, and has now issued an interim rule allowing the use of those statements on labels and in advertising while the process is underway.

The agency has been concerned that allowing nutritional information for alcoholic beverages without context could be misleading to consumers. That context meant a label would have to include the calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat levels based on a single serving, which was defined as 12 ounces for beer and malt beverages, 5 ounces for wine, and 1.5 fluid ounces for whisky and other distilled spirits. However, not all packaged drinks have the same level of alcohol content — such as a 12-ounce can of whisky mixed with cola at 5% ABV that would still have had to be labeled with the same 1.5 ounce serving size as a 750ml bottle of whisky.

The new standard means beverage companies will be allowed to use “serving facts” statements on their packaging with specific information on serving size (including the number of servings per container) and the percentage of alcohol in that recommended size. The change is not mandatory, and in many cases, adding the information to labels will not require a new TTB application for label approval.

For complete information on the changes, you can read the TTB’s interim ruling here.

Links: Tax & Trade Bureau