Exporters and watchdogs question US booze labelling

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Alcoholic beverage

Proposals for new mandatory labelling requirements on alcoholic
beverages in the US have come under criticism this week from
foreign manufacturers and watchdogs for offering no benefit to the
consumer.

Both the UK-based the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WTSA) and the US Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) claim that the current proposals to only label fat, protein and nutrients are a wasted opportunity for the industry and regulators alike. The labelling bill, which will remain under consultation until 27 January, was announced by the US Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in order to give consumers more awareness of what they are consuming. Research ​ In a statement released yesterday, the CSPI said it was unconvinced that the current proposals could serve the purpose, calling for "real-world" research for a new-uniform label that could encourage measured and moderated drinking in the US. George Hacker, the not-for-profit group's alcohol policies director said that any labelling requirement would need to address the interests of the consumer and not those of liquor manufacturers or brewers. "Consumers need information about calories, to help watch their weight; alcohol content, to help measure their drinking; and ingredients, to help comparison shop on the basis of quality and allergens,"​ he stated. "The TTB proposal also would not require disclosure of ingredients, nor would it require a statement communicating the government's advice on moderate drinking." Industry slant ​ The CSPI said that it had therefore called for the TTB to go back to the drawing board over the proposals, which it claims have been designed primarily to please all manufacturers of alcoholic beverages. "There are brewers on the one hand, who would prefer not to disclose alcohol content on labels at all, and distillers on the other, who would look forward to portraying liquor as a virtual diet drink with zero carbs, zero fat, zero protein,"​ the group stated. While encouraged that the government had begun to take action on the labelling issue, Hacker said that health issues should be the main priority of any successful labelling bill. "It's good news that the Bush Administration has begun a rule-making on alcohol labelling,"​ he stated. "It's a shame that it's proposed a confusing scheme that advances the public relations objectives of the industry more than it does the public's health or the convenience of consumers." Exporters view ​ Though the watchdog criticized the proposals for having a pro-industry slant, some foreign alcohol manufacturers are also concerned over the labelling scheme. WTSA spokesperson John Corbet-Milward told BeverageDaily.com that there was concern from some European alcoholic producers that there was little point to the US adopting the labelling proposals, as they served no benefit to consumers. "Ideally, a single global labelling agreement would help ensure parity for all manufacturers,"​ Corbet-Milward said. "If there appears to be no benefits from the scheme though, then there is little point of introducing it in the first place."

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