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 TREASURY ANNOUNCES ACTIONS CONCERNING LABELING OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES


2/5/1999

The Treasury Department and its Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearmsannounced Friday three specific actions concerning the labeling of alcoholic beverages. The threewere:

  • Treasury and ATF are launching an effort to develop legislation to strengthen itsauthority over alcohol labels as a way of deterring alcohol beverage marketing directed tounderage persons and to prevent alcohol abuse. In doing so, it will consult closely with HHS,industry and health groups.

  • ATF is publishing in the Federal Register a notice of proposed rulemaking prohibitingalcohol beverage containers that mislead consumers about the alcohol character of the productparticularly those that appear to be marketed to underage persons.

  • ATF approved two new statements for wine labels that had been requested by wineproducers, but only after modifications.

"Treasury is continuing its efforts to combat underage drinking and will work to strengthenour authority to ensure that products are neither targeted at nor provided to minors," saidTreasury Under Secretary for Enforcement James E. Johnson.

With regard to the legislation, Treasury will consider a number of options, including whetherto require the Government Warning Statement on alcohol beverage products be rotated amongdifferent messages, and whether to require all alcohol advertisements to carry a GovernmentWarning Statement. Treasury will also look at other legislative proposals to strengthen itsauthority over alcohol marketing practices targeted at underage consumers or that encouragealcohol abuse.

ATF is immediately seeking comment on a rule to stop the misleading packaging of alcoholproducts, especially those that would be attractive to children. Examples of this would beproducts that resemble frozen flavored ice products, gelatin products and non-alcoholic fruitsodas and drinks. (See photo.)

Also today, two statements were approved for wine labels. The two statements are:

  • "The proud people who made this wine encourage you to consult your family doctorabout the health effects of wine consumption."

  • "To learn the health effects of wine consumption, send for the Federal Government'sDietary Guidelines for Americans, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, USDA, 1120 20thStreet, NW, Washington, DC 20036 or visit its website.
    http://www.fns.usda.gov/fns/default.htm

Alcohol beverage labels are approved by ATF to make sure they do not contain statements orrepresentations that are likely to mislead consumers about the product. ATF worked withindustry to modify their proposed statements to meet these criteria.

"Under existing law, ATF can only deny labeling statements if they are false or misleading,"said Treasury General Counsel Ed Knight. He said ATF determined that the labeling statementsapproved today met the factual standards as not being false or misleading because thesestatements do not make any health claim, but simply direct consumers to sources for informationabout the health effect of alcohol consumption.

In an effort to determine consumers' perceptions of the two statements, ATF relied on asurvey of current wine drinkers conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health ServiceAdministration's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, an office within the U.S. Department ofHealth and Human Services.

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