DISCUS

Treasury Approves Health Statements for Beverage Alcohol Containers and Advertising

March 2, 2003 07:00 PM
WASHINGTON, DC – The Treasury Department published today its Final Rule permitting, under certain circumstances, health claims and other health-related statements on the container labels and in the advertising for spirits, beer and wine products. “We are pleased the Treasury Department has recognized the potential health benefits associated with moderate spirits, beer and wine consumption,” said Peter Cressy, President and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council. “While there continues to be a misperception that only moderate wine consumption may confer potential health benefits, this rule underscores the fact that distilled spirits, beer and wine should be treated the same as a matter of public policy and scientific fact.” In its rule, Treasury made it explicitly clear in several places that “the same standards should apply to wines, distilled spirits, and malt beverages, even if there is no evidence that any members of the…distilled spirits industries are interested in using health claims or health-related statements.” The Treasury Department went further to state that the “rulemaking record does not provide a basis for setting forth different standards for these types of alcohol beverages.” Under the new rule, effective in June, labels and advertisements may contain health claims as long as they are substantiated by scientific or medical evidence; disclose the health risk associated with both moderate and heavier levels of alcohol consumption; and outline the categories of individuals for whom any alcohol consumption poses risks. The Department also ruled directional statements, which are statements that direct the consumer to a third party for additional information, such as a physician or the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, will be allowed if accompanied by the following disclaimer: “This statement should not encourage you to drink or to increase your alcohol consumption for health reasons.” The Bureau struggled over the last few years with how to address in alcohol labeling and advertising the scientific literature regarding the potential health benefits of moderate spirits, beer and wine consumption. In 1999, after having approved a number of wine labels with directional statements, the Bureau suspended label approvals and initiated a rulemaking on the subject. During the rulemaking process, the Bureau held two public hearings in Washington and San Francisco at which the Distilled Spirits Council and many other industry groups testified. Treasury took final action after analyzing the 535 comments submitted by several U.S. senators, federal agencies, consumers and consumer organizations, medical professionals, public health organizations, industry members and others. “After weighing all views, Treasury ruled on the side of the consumer,” said Cressy. He noted that whether or not a particular distiller, vintner or brewer chooses to use such a statement will be an individual company decision. For decades, the spirits industry has been a leader in advocating moderation and responsibility. The distillers have always acknowledged the problems of abusive alcohol consumption and have worked aggressively over the decades to fight all forms of abuse, including illegal, underage drinking and drunk driving. Cressy noted the efforts of the distillers’ not-for-profit organization, The Century Council, which has developed innovative community programs nationwide -- some of which are being used by police departments in over 40 states and more than 1,200 colleges. In addition, he pointed to the Distilled Spirits Council-supported series of college conferences to fight alcohol abuse, as well as a new effort to assist health care professionals discuss alcohol consumption with their patients through an alcohol education Tool Kit jointly developed by the Distilled Spirits Council and an advisory panel of nutrition and medical professionals. The Tool Kit, being used by physicians and nutritionists across the country, includes patient materials that were favorably reviewed by the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation and the American Dietetic Association. The distillers do not recommend that people drink alcohol for health reasons and have always encouraged those adults who choose to drink, to do so responsibly and in moderation. Abuse of alcohol can cause serious health and other problems. Even drinking in moderation may pose health risks to some people. If you have questions regarding alcohol, talk to your health professional. CONTACT: Lisa Hawkins Telephone: 202-682-8840 SCROLLER Publication Name: Publication Author:
 

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