As promised, we are plodding through the TTB’s “Notice No. 176” – the “Modernization of the Labeling and Advertising Regulations for Wine, Distilled Spirits, and Malt Beverages.”

This important proposed amendment to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s regulations governing the labeling and advertising of wine, distilled spirits, and malt beverages revamps the federal advertising and labeling regulations.

So far, we’ve had three Installments of our series covering these revisions. You can read them here, here, and here.

Today’s update discusses some of the proposed changes regarding labeling:

  1. There’s a proposal to standardize sections numbered 4.44, 5.44, and 7.44 to create a provision for malt beverages that is similar to provisions for spirits and wine authorizing, without any requirement for separate written permission from the TTB, the addition of a label identifying the wholesaler, retailer, or consumer as long as the label contains no reference to the characteristics of the product, does not violate the labeling regulations, and does not obscure any existing labels. This provision is designed to allow permittees, brewers, and retailers to relabel alcoholic beverage containers when they have good reason to do so.
  2. With regard to the mandated type size for certain label statements, the TTB is proposing to retain the current type size requirements – the maximum height of 3 millimeters on containers of five liters or less of malt beverages and wine for the alcohol content statement, but removing the prohibition against accentuating the alcohol content statement. This would allow for bolding the alcohol content statement or allowing it to be set off by borders or other accentuation.
  3. There is a proposal to standardize sections numbered 4.54, 5.54, and 7.54, to make it explicit that mandatory information may not be obscured in whole or in part. This reflects current policy but there is no explicit statement regarding obscured text in the present regulations.
  4. There is a proposal to add sections for each of the Commodities discussing what is a label in addressing the different forms at label take for example paper, plastic or film labels affixed to the container; information etched, engraved, sandblasted, or otherwise carved into the surface of the container;  and information branded, stenciled, painted, printed, or otherwise directly applied to the surface of the container. A portion of this regulation will also cover statements printed on foil caps or on corks or other parts of the container. These will not be considered labels unless approved by the appropriate TTB officer and are adopted to deal with modern products in containers such as pudding or gelatin type cups.
  5. There is a proposal to clarify that materials accompanying the container which are not firmly affixed to the container like booklets, leaflets, and hang tags are not labels for the purposes of the regulations. These materials are instead subject to the advertising regulations, but not the labeling regulations.
  6. There is a proposal to require that closed packaging such as sealed opaque coverings, cartons, cases, carriers and other packaging used for sale at retail must include all mandatory information required to appear on a label.These regulations will also provide clarity in defining when packaging is considered “closed.”  The packaging will be considered closed if the consumer must open, rip, untie, unzip, or otherwise manipulate the package to remove the container in order to view any of the mandatory information.
  7. In a rather important update, the TTB is proposing to do away with the concept of a “brand label” which was previously the term they used for the part of a label that was most likely to be consumer-facing on a retail shelf. Instead the regulations will switch to concepts for labeling that we will later discuss such as ensuring that mandatory information is placed on a label and positioning in relation to other mandatory information.
  8. The TTB asks for comment on the current disparity between malt beverages and distilled spirits on the one hand being allowed to list their principal place of business or every location where they bottle their product versus wineries on the other, which are forced to show the name of the bottle in the place where bottled. This request also seek guidance from the public about whether current practices provide enough information to the consumers. A thinly veiled nod to recent labeling lawsuits such as the Kona Brewing kerfuffle.
  9. New proposed regulations for sections numbered 4.67, 5.67, and 7.67 provide rules for labeling of wine, distilled spirits, and malt beverages that are imported in bulk and are then blended with wine, distilled Spirits, or malt beverages, of a different country of origin or subjected to production activities in the United States that would alter the class or type of the product. These products must now be labeled with a bottle by statement rather than an imported by statement.
  10. Finally, for today’s overview, there is a proposal to eliminate the TTB’s ongoing regulations regarding country of origin labeling with regard to imported wine, distilled spirits, and malt beverages, and to simply adopt provision cross-referencing the Customs and Border Protection regulations for labeling these products.