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Beer labels unraveled

Why do some beer labels have information that others do not? The difference lies in whether the drink is considered a malt beverage. According to Packaging Digest, the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau ruled in 2008 that beverages that are not malt (that is, beverages made with malt barley replacements like sorghum, rice or wheat) or made without hops are not subject to the Federal Alcohol Administration Act. Before, the FAAA had held higher influence than Food and Drug Administration guidelines on beers. Since this ruling, instead of being governed by the FAAA, non-malt beverages must instead follow the Fair Packaging and Label Act provisions under the FDA’s rule.

FDA requirements
According to the FDA, the printed labels on these beverages must include the list of ingredients, major food allergens present in the product and a Nutritional Facts label. The labels must also include the net quantity of contents, manufacturer, packer or distributor information and a statement of identity. The FDA has not issued guidelines on alcohol content for non-malt beverages. Though the FDA gave beer makers until 2012 to readjust to the new guidelines, as late as December 2014, guidance was still being issued.

While non-malt beverages are no longer guided under the FAAA, they still must follow some of the TTB guidelines like the Government Health Warning Statement required under the Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act in addition to some stipulations under the Internal Revenue Code.

TTB requirements
As far as alcohol content, the TTB usually allows beer makers the option of whether to include alcohol content on the labels. However, if the beverage derives its alcohol from added flavors or ingredients other than hops, the alcohol content must then be listed. According to the U.S. Government Publishing Office, malt beverages must have the brand name and net contents.

Mcloone offers printed label services to the U.S. craft beer industry.

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