On Monday, July 1, 2019, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) published two eagerly anticipated notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRMs) to largely repeal the standards of fill for wine and distilled spirits containers. The highlights:
- In the preamble to both NPRMs, TTB advances a number of significant policy beliefs on the topic of standards of fill, including:
- Standards of fill are no longer needed to help protect the revenue and enforce the excise tax.
- Standards of fill are not critical to protecting consumers, because consumers can rely on mandatory net content statements on labels.
- The lack of any standards of fill for malt beverages has not created any revenue or consumer deception problems.
- For spirits, TTB proposes to eliminate all standards except for a minimum of 50 milliliters and a maximum of 3.785 liters (one gallon). The maximum reflects the Federal Alcohol Administration Act’s statutory maximum for distilled spirit containers.
- For wine, TTB proposes to eliminate all standards except for a minimum of 50 milliliters. TTB selected the 50-milliliter minimum to ensure that containers were sufficiently large to show all mandatory label information.
- The distilled spirits NPRM also includes a proposal to codify in the malt beverage labeling regulations the longstanding practice of permitting metric volume measures in addition to the non-metric measures required by current regulations.
- Both NPRMs also discuss potential alternatives to eliminating the standards of fill by:
- Maintaining existing standards but adding a number of new sizes to those authorized; or
- Establishing a system where standards of fill are approved by TTB via a streamlined administrative process.
- The comment periods for both NPRMs close on August 30, 2019.
These proposals respond to a number of petitions on the subject of standards of fill and appear to reflect the current Administration’s deregulatory agenda.