Beer With Nutrition Labeling Becomes a Reality

July 18, 2008

Under the terms of a 1987 Memorandum of Understanding, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) exercises jurisdiction over labeling of distilled spirits, wines, and malt beverages subject to the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (“FAA Act”), and FDA exercises jurisdiction over other alcohol beverages.  Last week, TTB issued a ruling clarifying that certain beverages that meet the definition of a “beer” under the Internal Revenue Code are not “malt beverages” subject to regulation under the FAA Act if they are produced from substitutes for malted barley, such as rice or corn, and are made without hops.  The ruling makes clear that such beverages are subject to FDA’s ingredient and other labeling requirements.  However, the ruling leaves open the possibility that beverages with relatively small amounts of malted barley or hops might conform to the definition of a “malt beverage,” and thereby escape FDA’s labeling requirements.  As an example, the ruling cites a recent TTB determination that “a neutral malt beer containing malted barley at one percent of the total dry weight of all ingredients contributing fermentable extract to the product” is a “malt beverage.” The ruling does not affect sake and other beverages that fall within the definition of “wine” under the FAA Act.  Those beverages continue to be subject to the requirements of the FAA Act as long as they contain at least seven percent alcohol by volume.

By Ricardo Carvajal

Categories: Foods