The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has issued a May 28, 2013, ruling that will allow alcoholic beverage manufacturers “to provide consumers with nutritional information about their products.” Acting under the authority of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, TTB will permit the use of “Serving Facts” statements on wine, distilled spirits and malt beverages that describe the product’s “serving size, the number of servings per container, the number of calories, and the number of grams of carbohydrates, protein, and fat per serving.” Manufacturers may also choose to include information “about the alcohol content of the product as a percentage of alcohol by volume and may also include a statement of the fluid ounces of pure ethyl alcohol per serving.”

According to the new ruling, TTB issued the voluntary guidance pending plans to require similar Serving Facts statements on all alcoholic beverage labels. “We wish to advise the public and the industry of our policy with regard to the use of such statements and representations in the labeling and advertising of alcohol beverages,” states the bureau in the ruling, which does not require manufacturers to submit revised labels for approval provided the Serving Facts panel conforms to the examples supplied by the guidance. “We also wish to clarify 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.” See TTB Press Release, May 28, 2013.

Meanwhile, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Executive Director Michael Jacobson has criticized the ruling as a “small bit of ‘interim’ progress on alcohol labeling.” Pointing to a 2003 petition that sought mandatory alcohol facts labeling, Jacobson denounced the voluntary measure for allegedly failing, among other things, to disclose a complete list of product ingredients as is required for food and beverages. “Including fat and carbohydrates on labels could imply that an alcoholic beverage is positively healthful, especially when the drink’s alcohol content isn’t prominently labeled,” opined Jacobson. “In this era of obesity, calorie labeling is critically important to inform or remind consumers that alcoholic drinks are not ‘free’ when it comes to calories.” See CSPI Press Release, May 29, 2013.