Alcoholic beverages may soon feature nutrition labels similar to those on food packaging. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau recently announced that beer, wine, and spirits companies may use labels that inform consumers about items such as serving size, servings per container, calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat per serving.

“We are making this change to allow industry members to provide truthful, accurate, and specific information to consumers about the nutrient content of their products on a per serving basis,” according to TTB Ruling 2013-2.

The statements may also include information about the alcohol content of the product as a percentage of alcohol by volume, as well as a statement of the fluid ounces of pure ethyl alcohol per serving.

The Bureau’s announcement about voluntary statements appears to be the first step toward a final rule that will mandate such information. In 2007, the TTB issued proposed rules that would have required such statements, but they are still under consideration.

In the interim, if alcohol beverage companies choose to include serving facts, they must be “truthful, accurate, and specific” and numerical statements of alcohol content must be truthful and “verifiable,” the TTB emphasized. If industry members conform to the samples in the TTB’s ruling, they need not apply for new label approval, the Bureau said.

Some alcohol beverage companies support the idea of the labels. Other industry members have expressed less enthusiasm. A spokesperson for the Wine Institute indicated support for the labels but said that the organization knew of no wine companies planning to make use of them, as “such information is not a key factor in consumer purchase decisions about wine.”

To read Ruling 2013-2, click here.

Why it matters: The inclusion of serving facts and numerical statements of alcohol content is voluntary – for now. The Bureau could make the labels mandatory if it finalizes the rules proposed in 2007. In a press release about the ruling, it noted that the “TTB is providing this interim guidance on the use of optional Serving Facts statements on labels and in advertisements pending the completion of rulemaking on this matter.” In addition, the Bureau cautioned that “we will take appropriate action with regard to labeling or advertising representations that mislead the consumer about the nutritional value or health effects of alcohol beverages.”