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Label Compliance Guide for Alcoholic Beverages in the US – Part 2

October 15, 2018

Part 1 of this series introduced the readers to the regulations that govern labeling requirements for Wine, Distilled Spirits and Malt Beverages in the United States. This post will look at provisions under Labeling Proceedings as well as Labeling and Advertising of Wine.

Before we dive into the topic, it is pertinent to know the corresponding regulations for alcoholic beverages in other parts of the world:

Region/Country Regulator Regulation Objectives related to labeling
United Kingdom/EU Food Standards Agency Regulation (EU) No: 1308/2013,

Regulation (EU) No: 1169/2011 and Regulation (EC) No: 607/2009

Guidance on “information which must be included and\or may be shown on labels for wines produced in the European Union.”
India Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) Food Safety and Standards (Alcoholic Beverages) Regulations, 2018 The specific labelling requirements are: declaration of alcohol content, labeling of standard drink, not to contain any nutritional information, no health claim, restriction on words ‘non-intoxicating’ or words implying similar meaning on label of beverage containing more than 0.5 per cent alcohol by volume, Labelling of wine, Allergen warning, statutory warning.

Coming back to the US regulation, 27 CFR Part 13 Labeling Proceedings is concerned with issuance of:

  1. Certificate of Label Approval – authorizes the bottling or packing of alcoholic beverages.
  2. Certificate of Exemption from Label Approval – for products that will “under no circumstances be sold, offered for sale, shipped, delivered for shipment, or otherwise introduced by the applicant, directly or indirectly, into interstate or foreign commerce.”
  3. Distinctive Liquor Bottle Approval – authorizes the bottling of distilled spirits.

Applicant has to furnish details in Form 5100.31 and also attach a mock-up of the label. The assigned TTB officer communicates decision within 90 days. Formal appeal can be made within 45 days from getting notified. There is provision for informal resolution through conference with the TTB officer.

As per 27 CFR Part 4, there are 9 classes of wine as given below:

  • Class 1: Grape, Table and Dessert wine
  • Class 2: Sparkling Grape, Champagne, Crackling, Petillant, Frizzante Wine
  • Class 3: Carbonated Grape wine
  • Class 4: Citrus wine, Citrus Table and Citrus Dessert wine
  • Class 5: Fruit, Berry, Fruit/Berry Table and Fruit/Berry Dessert wine
  • Class 6: Wine from other agricultural products, table, dessert and raisin wine
  • Class 7: Aperitif wine and vermouth
  • Class 8: Imitation, Substandard or other than standard wine
  • Class 9: Retsina wine

The following information are to be provided on the brand label:

Note: Minimum 2 mm for containers larger than 187 ml or 1 mm for containers of 187 ml or less.

  • Brand Name
    • “Product shall bear a brand name, except that if not sold under a brand name, then the name of the person required to appear on the brand label shall be deemed a brand name for the purpose of this part.”
    • “No label shall contain any brand name, which, standing alone, or in association with other printed or graphic matter creates any impression or inference as to the age, origin, identity, or other characteristics of the product” unless otherwise ruled by the TTB officer.
    • This part allows the use of Trade Name of Foreign Origin.
  • Class, type, or other designation: Ex of class: Grape wine, Aperitif Wine etc. Ex of type: Muscadine is a specific type of grape wine.
  • Blends – of American and foreign wines, if any reference is made to the presence of foreign wine, the exact percentage by volume need to be mentioned.

The other mandatory information to be provided by the wine company are:

  • Name and address
      • For American wine – name and address of bottler or packer preceded by the phrase “bottled by” or “packed by”
      • For imported wine – name and address of importer, agent, sole distributor, or other
      • person responsible for the importation
  • Net contents – Shall be stated in the same manner and form as set forth in the standard of fill.
        • Standard of fill – 3 liters, 1.5 l, 1 l, 750 l, 500 ml, 375 ml, 187 ml, 100 ml, 50 ml. Sizes larger than 3 liters are also allowed (4 l, 5 l, 6 l etc.)
        • Equivalent volume in U.S. measure may also be shown
        • Net contents need not be stated on any label if the net contents are displayed by having the same blown, etched, sand-blasted, marked by underglaze coloring, or otherwise permanently marked by any method
  • Alcohol content – numerical alcohol content statements to appear on wine labels except: wine containing 14% or less alcohol by volume or if the type designation “table wine” or “light wine” appears on the brand label. Note: Wine containing alcohol less than 7% is not subject to the labeling requirements.

Examples of alcohol content declarations: “18% ALC. BY VOL.” or “17%-19% ALC. BY VOL.”

Either on brand label or back label, a statement that the product contains FD&C Yellow No. 5, where that coloring material is used in a product bottled on or after October 6, 1984.

Either on front, back, strip or neck label:

  1. a statement that the product contains the color additive. For ex: “Contains Cochineal Extract” or “Contains Carmine”
  2. Declaration of sulfites – for ex: “Contains sulfites” or “Contains (a) sulfiting agent(s)” or a statement identifying the specific sulfiting agent where sulfur dioxide or a sulfiting agent is detected at a level of 10 or more parts per million, measured as total sulfur dioxide

Percentage of foreign wine: A statement of the percentage and origin of foreign wine (e.g., “30% GRAPE WINE FROM ITALY”) is required on blends of American and foreign wines if any reference to the presence of foreign wine is made on the label. Must appear on the brand label of the container.

As per 27 CFR Part 16, There shall be stated on the brand label or separate front label, or on a back or side label, separate and apart from all other information, the following statement: “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.” The words government warning should be in capital letters and bold type. The type sizes are as follows: min 3 mm (max 12 characters per inch) for 3 l or more, 2 mm for up to 3 l (max 25 characters per inch) and 1 mm for 237 ml or less (max 40 characters per inch).

The next post in this series will look at the labeling requirements for distilled spirits as stipulated under 27 CFR Part 5.

Courtesy: Aravind Ravi, Technical Documentation Manager at ManageArtworks.

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