U.S. Treasury Department sued for delaying comprehensive alcohol labeling requirement

US – The Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Consumer Federation of America, and the National Consumers League sued the U.S. Treasury Department, seeking to force a comprehensive labeling requirement for all alcoholic beverages.

The three consumer groups, as well as 66 other organizations and eight individuals — including four deans of public health schools — filed a petition for this kind of labeling in 2003 but has had a nineteen-year delay.

The Plaintiffs sued Treasury Department because itoverseas the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which governs some alcoholic beverages.

The alcoholic beverage labeling proposed in the 2003 petition is similar to what consumers see on food items.

The Petition urged TTB to require alcohol labeling with the same basic transparency consumers expect in foods.

For alcohol, that means labeling that has alcohol content, calorie, and ingredient information—including ingredients that can cause allergic reactions.

The enhanced transparency in alcohol labeling, according to the petitioners, is a commonsense step that can help address the health and safety concerns related to the consumption of alcohol and would allow consumers to make informed choices about the alcoholic products they purchase.

According to the Treasury Department, the alcohol “labeling could be an effective means of conveying information relevant to health concerns (for example, calorie content and more detail about alcohol content) to consumers,” and “ensuring consumers are informed about the nature of alcoholic beverages promotes public health goals.

Results of a telephone poll included with the 2003 labeling petition showed overwhelming support among consumers for alcoholic beverage labeling — 84% supported serving size guidelines, 89% favored calorie information, 94% wanted information on alcohol content and 91% backed ingredient labeling.

In 2005 and 2006, the bureau took comments on the issue, but a proposed label was never finalized. In 2013, the bureau allowed the voluntary use of a “Serving Facts” label while the rule was finalized, but that never occurred.

An updated Nutrition Facts label now shows more detailed information about serving sizes and added sugars, and the FDA last week proposed a new definition of “healthy.”

The International Food Information Council’s 2022 Food and Health Survey found that 85% of consumers pay attention to labels when they shop at least sometimes.

To remedy the Defendants’ years-long unreasonable delay in acting on the Petition, Plaintiffs seek an order from the Court directing Defendants to make a final decision granting or denying the Petition within sixty days.

The petitioners argue that as a result of the delay to make a sound decision on the matter, the Plaintiffs’ members and supporters have for years been forced to consume alcoholic products without knowing important diet, health, and safety information or possibly forgo them.

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