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Label Compliance Guide for Alcoholic Beverages in the US – Series Finale


This blog series, thus far, introduced the readers to salient points pertaining to labeling as stipulated under the following regulations in the US:

  • 27 CFR Part 13, Labeling Proceedings
  • 27 CFR Part 4, Labeling and Advertising of Wine
  • 27 CFR Part 5, Labeling and Advertising of Distilled Spirits

It is vital to remember that Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) grants the Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) for all alcoholic beverages that meet the definitions given in The Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAA). Note: Alcoholic beverages that fall outside the purview of the FAA (TTB) are governed by the FDA. In such a case, the pertinent regulation is 21 CFR Part 101.

This series finale will demystify:

  • 27 CFR Part 7, Labeling and Advertising of Malt Beverages
  • 27 CFR Part 16, Alcoholic Beverage Health Warning Statement

27 CFR Part 7 prohibits breweries, wholesalers or importers to sell or ship malt beverages in the US in containers, “unless the malt beverages are packaged, and the packages are marked, branded, and labeled in conformity with this subpart.” It is also unlawful to tamper with the label after shipment. Furthermore, malt beverages in containers shall be deemed misbranded if:

a) Brand label containing mandatory information is absent.

b) Any printed information on the label, cap, container, carton, case or material accompanying the package contains prohibited “statement, design, device, or graphic, pictorial, or emblematic representation.”

c) Printed information belongs to person other than the one mentioned in the brand label.

Prohibited labeling practices as per Part 7 are as follows:

  • Language should not mislead the customer.
  • Disparage competitor products.
  • Obscene or indecent representations.
  • Statements relating to any tests or analyses or standards shall not be misleading.
  • Statements relating to any guarantee shall not be misleading. However, money-back guarantees are not prohibited.
  • Customers cannot be falsely led to believe that the product is made or endorsed by any individual or organization of public prominence through any representation or usage of such names as brand or trade names. Persons engaged in the malt beverages business in any capacity is exempt from this prohibition.
  • Customers cannot be misled to believe that the malt beverage contains distilled spirits or is a distilled spirits product. However, this regulation allows companies certain leeway in terms of:
    • Selling a malt beverage under a distilled spirits brand provided the overall label does not mislead the customer into believing that the said malt beverage contains or is a product of distilled spirits.
    • Using a cocktail name as a brand name for a malt beverage.
  • Any part of a label cannot be designed to resemble the stamp of any government.
  • Printed information should not suggest or imply governmental supervision over any aspect of brewing or bottling or packing a malt beverage product. Use of the word bond or bonded is prohibited.
  • Label shall not contain armed forces insignia (flags, seals or coat of arms)
  • Labels shall not contain the words “strong,” “full strength,” “extra strength,” “high test,” “high proof,” “pre-war strength,” “full oldtime alcoholic strength,” or similar words or statements, likely to be considered as statements of alcoholic content, unless required by State law. This does not preclude use of the terms “low alcohol,” “reduced alcohol,” “non-alcoholic,” and “alcohol-free”

Note: Any health related statements or health claims shall be substantiated by scientific or medical evidence. The TTB officer shall consult FDA for any clarification regarding specific health claims and their conformance to Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

The following are the mandatory label information:

On the Brand Label or PDP:

  • Brand Name – if marketed without a brand name, name of bottler/importer is considered as brand name equivalent
  • Class – Beer, Ale, Porter, Stout, Lager, Malt Liquor, Cereal Beverage, Near Beer
  • Name and Address – City and State of bottler/packer (except when branded or burned on the container)
  • Net Contents – English units. May show both Metric and English units.
Contents of ContainerNet Contents must be shown inExamples
Container SizeLabel Net Contents Statement
Less than 1 pintFluid ounces or fractions of a pint8 ounces8 fl. oz. (or) ½ pint (or) 0.5 pint
1 pint, 1 quart or 1 gallonSo stated16, 32 or 128 ounces1 pint, 1 quart or 1 gallon
More than 1 pint less than 1 quartFractions of a quart or in pints and fluid ounces20 ounces5/8 qt. (or) 0.63 qt. (or) 1 pt. 4 fl. oz.
More than 1 quart less than 1 gallonFractions of a gallon or in quarts, pints and fluid ounces60 ounces15/32 gal. (or) 0.47 gal. (or) 1 qt. 1 pt. 12 fl. oz.
More than 1 gallonGallons and fractions thereof166 ounces1 ¼ gals. (or) 1.25 gals.
  • Alcohol Content
    • ALC ___% by VOL
    • ALC by VOL__%
    • __%ALC by VOL
    • __%ALC/VOL

Note: Malt beverages containing less than 0.5% of alcohol can be designated as “malt beverage,” or “cereal beverage,” or “near beer.”

  1. If the designation “near beer” is used, both words must appear in the same size and style of type, in the same color of ink, and on the same background.
  2. Such a product cannot be designated as “beer”, “lager beer”, “lager”, “ale”, “porter”, or “stout”, or any other class or type designation commonly applied to malt beverages containing one-half of 1 percent or more of alcohol by volume.

Information to be provided on brand label/PDP or back label:

  • Name and address of importer – for imported beer
  • Government warning statement
  • Country of origin
  • Declaration of ingredients – FD&C yellow no. 5, Cochineal Extract, Carmine, Sulfites, Aspartame
  • Note: The company can choose to disclose major food allergens in addition to above information.

General Requirements:

  • Contrasting background and legible under ordinary conditions
  • Size and type: (everything except alcohol content)
    • More than one-half pint: font size not smaller than 2 mm.
    • One-half pint or less: font size not smaller than 1 mm.
    • Note: Script, type or printing of mandatory information should be more conspicuous than descriptive or explanatory information.
  • Alcohol Content: All portions of this statement shall be of same size, lettering and color.
    • One-half pint or less: not smaller than 1 mm
    • Larger than one-half pint: not smaller than 2 mm
    • 40 fl. oz. or less: not larger than 3 mm
    • Larger than 40 fl. oz.: larger than 4 mm

Let us conclude this series by analyzing the requirements stipulated under 27 CFR Part 16 – Alcoholic beverages health warning statement. For all alcoholic beverages bottled for sale after 18th November, 1989 shall not be sold or shipped or imported without health warning statements. The following statements shall be present either brand label or separate front or back labels:

GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.

(2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.

General requirements:

  1. Contrasting background and legible under ordinary conditions
  2. GOVERNMENT WARNING” in bold capital letters. Reminder of the warning should not be in bold.
Container sizeMinimum required type size for warning statementMaximum number of characters per inch
237 milliliters (8 fl. oz.) or less1 millimeter40
more than 237 milliliters (8 fl. oz.)

up to 3 liters (101 fl. oz.)

2 millimeters25
more than 3 liters (101 fl. oz.)3 millimeters12

Courtesy: Aravind Ravi, Technical Documentation Manager at ManageArtworks.

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