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TTB's New Guidelines Doom Health Claims for Labels and Advertising

 

In February 1999, the Bureau on Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) approved labels submitted by several wine makers that included "directional" statements pointing consumers to their physicians or the Federal Government's Dietary Guidelines to learn about the health effects of wine consumption.  Health advocates protested the label approvals, arguing, among other things, that the directional messages were in fact implied health claims that could mislead and deceive consumers about the health effects of drinking.  As a result of growing controversy about health claims, including lawsuits against ATF to permit substantive health claims, the agency commenced a rulemaking process and held two public hearings in early 2000.

 

On March 3, 2003, ATF's successor agency the Federal Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued final regulations [Federal Register 27 CFR Parts 4, 5 and 7, TTB T.D.- 1; ATF Notice Nos. 884, 892, and 896] "to prohibit the appearance on labels or in advertisements of any health-related statement, including a specific health claim, that is untrue or tends to create a misleading impression."  Specific health claims must be truthful, adequately substantiated by substantial scientific evidence, properly detailed, balanced by information about the risks of moderate and heavier drinking, and qualified by an enumeration of the categories of individuals for whom any levels of alcohol consumption may cause health risks.  Health-related statements, such as the previously approved "directional" messages, will now be presumed misleading unless they include a brief disclaimer advising consumers that the statement should not encourage beginning or increasing alcohol consumption for health reasons.  The new rules will take effect on June 2, 2003.

 

CSPI's George Hacker and many others testified at the hearings in 2000 and submitted comments to ATF.  Although a blanket ban on all health claims and health-related statements would have been preferable, we believe the regulations effectively shut the door to industry efforts to promote the healthfulness of drinking.  As a result of the conditions that TTB has imposed, we don't expect to see many new applications for label approval in the future.

 

For TTB's New Alcoholic-Beverage  Label Guidelines:

Federal Register  TTB T.D.- 1

27 CFR Part 4: 4.39, 4.64 (Wine)

27 CFR Part 5: 5.42, 5.65 (Distilled Spirits)

27 CFR Part 7: 7.29, 7.54 (Malt Beverages)

 

For historical materials on health claims issues, visit:

4/25/00 -- George Hacker's testimony before the ATF concerning health claims and health-related statements for alcoholic beverages.
3/28/00 -- ATF's Federal Register notice announcing public hearings on health claims in labeling and advertising alcoholic-beverage containers.
2/19/00 -- Joint Statement of Public Health Officials
1/31/00 -- CSPI's written comments to ATF regarding health claims on alcoholic-beverage containers and in advertising.
10/28/98 -- Action Alert: The Wine Institute's Proposal to use new labels implying that there are health benefits to consuming wine.
10/7/97 -- Vintage Deception: The Wine Institute's Manipulation of Scientific Research to Promote Wine Consumption (Executive Summary).

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For more information, please send an email to alcproject@cspinet.org.

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Center for Science in the Public Interest

Alcohol Policies Project

1220 L St. NW, Suite 300

Washington, DC  20005

Phone: 202-332-9110 * Fax: 202-265-4954 * Web: www.cspinet.org/booze