Home Wine Business Editorial Expert Editorial WineAmerica: An Update on Important Regulatory Matters in 2024

WineAmerica: An Update on Important Regulatory Matters in 2024

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Congress may be stuck in the mud, but there is much work to be done
on the regulatory front. WineAmerica needs your help.

By Michael Kaiser

 

We are well into February and, once again, there is Congressional gridlock. It is more of the same from 2023. The federal government has not been fully funded for the current fiscal year, and we still don’t even have language for the next Farm Bill. This being an election year, there is even less time for Congress to complete their work for the year, because there are scheduled months long recesses in both August and October. 

There was one bright spot of cooperation in the House when they passed their bipartisan tax package, only to see it languish in the Senate. 

While there seems to be no traction in Congress to get anything done, there are two very important regulatory issues WineAmerica is currently working on. There is no other winery association that speaks for the entire American industry on these issues. We are your last line of defense.

TTB Finally Moves on Label Changes

After more than a year of waiting, the TTB has announced two public “listening sessions” on nutrition, ingredient and allergen labeling. These sessions will help inform TTB in their formal rulemaking process, which could begin later this year. WineAmerica will be submitting comments, and we encourage every state wine association and winery to participate. According to the TTB notice, “These listening sessions are intended to engage the public, including consumers, public health stakeholders and industry members of all sizes, and facilitate the public’s ability to provide input to inform rulemaking.”

Virtual listening sessions will be held on the following days:

The deadline to register to virtually attend either session is noon EST, February 27, 2024. When registering, participants may indicate whether they wish to speak at one of the sessions. Requests to speak during one of the listening sessions must be submitted by noon EST, on February 26, 2024. If all registered speakers have had an opportunity to speak, the session may conclude early.

In addition to the listening sessions, written comments may be submitted electronically or via postal mail and must be submitted or postmarked by 11:59 p.m. EST, March 29, 2024, using the instructions provided in Notice No. 232. To view all documents and comments related to this notice, see Docket No. TTB-2024-0002 at Regulations.gov.  

To facilitate input from the public, TTB has developed the following list of questions. TTB encourages commenters to explain the rationale behind their comments and to include any available supporting data and other information, as appropriate. 

  1. Do consumers believe that they are adequately informed by the information currently provided on alcohol beverage labels?
  2. Is alcohol content per serving, and nutritional information (such as calories, carbohydrates, protein and fat) per serving important for consumers in deciding whether to purchase or consume a particular alcohol beverage? 
  3. Would a full list of ingredients, and/or major food allergens, be important information for consumers in making their purchasing or consumption decisions? 
  4. In what ways would this information be useful, and in what ways could it be misleading? 
  5. Is some of this information more important than others?
  6. What types of per-serving nutritional information, such as calories, carbohydrates, protein and fat, should be included?
  7. Would requiring this information on labels be expected to increase the cost of the products and, if so, by how much? 
  8. To what extent are businesses already following voluntary guidelines for this information? 
  9. Are there alternative ways of providing the information, for example by allowing information to be provided through a website using a quick response code (QR code) or website address on the label?
  10. How would any new mandatory labeling requirements particularly affect small businesses and new businesses entering the marketplace?

WineAmerica is happy to see TTB seek input on the cost of including this information, which could be overly burdensome on small businesses. Additionally, we are encouraged to see the inquiry regarding off label labeling solutions

US Dietary Guidelines: What are they?

Every five years, multiple federal agencies work together to draft the US Dietary Guidelines for America. The current guidelines are due to expire at the end of this year. Alcohol has been included in the guidelines for many years now, and it is imperative that it remains. The guidelines provide advice from the federal government on how many alcoholic beverages a person can consume each day and be assured there will be no significant health consequences. The current guideline is two drinks (a drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of spirits) per day for an adult man and one drink per day for an adult woman.

There is some confusion as to what the guidelines actually mean in terms of safe consumption. As written, the guidelines outline the dangers of alcohol abuse and heavy consumption. They certainly do not recommend alcohol consumption. What they do say is that, if you do consume alcohol, a safe amount is two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. In reality, many consumers do not drink alcohol every day, and the vast majority of alcohol consumers do consume in a moderate and safe way. But we must stress that it is not a recommendation to drink. Rather, it is a guideline for what is safe for people who choose to do so.

The process to draft and publish the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines for America has already started. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that guidance on moderate alcohol consumption will remain in the guidelines, but it’s unclear exactly what that recommendation will be. Will it remain the same? Will HHS lower the guidance for safe consumption to where they are in Canada? These are all questions we don’t know the answers to. HHS leadership has not identified precisely how it plans to review the scientific research on consuming alcohol beverages. 

WineAmerica is part of a coalition of beverage alcohol trade associations working together to make sure the guidelines do not change. We are all doing our best to make sure the concerns of the industry are heard and that future recommendations are based on sound science. We look at being in the dietary guidelines as a blessing and a curse. It is certainly a benefit for us to be able to reference the guidelines as we promote safe and responsible consumption. However, it means every year we must work to ensure alcohol remains in the guidelines. That is proving particularly difficult with the growing anti-alcohol sentiment out in the general public. 

As I said earlier, there is no other national winery trade association working on these issues. There is no one else. We hope you consider joining us to help.

___________________________________________________________________

Michael Kaiser

Michael Kaiser is executive vice president and director of government affairs at WineAmerica, which represents wineries and associations from more than 40 states. For more information about WineAmerica and how to get involved, visit www.wineamerica.org.

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