Nutrition, Ingredient, and Allergen Information on Wine Labels?
One of the last steps before a bottle of Michigan wine is opened and enjoyed by a fortunate consumer is labeling. Like everything involving alcohol, there are numerous Michigan and federal laws and regulations pertaining to wine labels and there are some nuances that can be confusing.
Any existing uncertainty or confusion will intensify. Perhaps as soon as late 2023, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is expected to issue its proposed rules requiring wine labels to have similar information to the ubiquitous “Nutrition Facts” panel people are accustomed to on most food products. This will be an “Alcohol Facts” panel.
Michigan law requires that all wine sold in the State have a label that’s been approved by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) via an online registration system. The label must already be registered with TTB, which involves compliance with a myriad of regulations. To give you an idea of what I mean by “a myriad,” the federal regulations for wine labeling and advertising run about 55 pages and include over 23,000 words.
Currently, most wine labels are required to “truthfully describe the contents” and must include the brand name, the name and address of the bottler or packer, alcohol content, net contents, and a government warning statement. If a wine maker wants to get creative with their product or label, there are regulations prohibiting several statements and added compliance requirements if certain words, advertising, or representations are used on the label. There will be even more after this new “Alcohol Facts” requirement goes into effect.
TTB may require inclusion in the “Alcohol Facts” panel of items such as the serving size for a drink that contains .5 ounces of ethyl alcohol, the number of drinks per container, an ingredients declaration listing each ingredient including food, color, and flavor additives, more robust allergen information, and current U.S. dietary guidelines of moderate drinking for men and women. It’s also possible that this information may be accessible via a QR code linking to the wine maker’s website – but we don’t know yet.
There will be rule proposals, public comment, and perhaps some modification of the proposals based on those comments, before we know what the new TTB labeling requirements will include. However, there is already significant concern among wine makers.
Will labels need to be changed every vintage if the ingredients are tweaked? What about “ingredients” that are used, but disappear during the wine making process? Will classic, well-established labels need to be changed to fit the new requirements? Will opportunistic lawyers sue wine makers if a post-production test shows slightly different “ingredients” or information relative to what’s on the label?
As the rulemaking process plays out, we’ll have more clarity on some of these issues which may help you prepare them. Please contact me at [email protected] and I’ll send you updates on this as TTB works its way through the process and keep you informed as to how you can get ready for these new requirements.