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TTB Publishes Projected Regulatory Agenda as Part of Government’s Unified Agenda

As it does twice per year, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) recently published its projected Regulatory Agenda as part of the federal government’s “Unified Agenda.”  Links to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s portions of the Unified Agenda appear below.

TTB’s latest contribution to the Unified Agenda lists six priority projects that it hopes to publish rulemaking notices on in 2016:

  1. Revise TTB’s import and export regulations to make them compatible with the International Trade Data System (ITDS).  ITDS aims to create a single electronic exchange portal for all import and export activities.  TTB expects to propose these new regulations by March 2016.
  2. Revise TTB’s labeling regulations for wine, distilled spirits, and malt beverages (beer) to eliminate outmoded, ineffective and excessively burdensome regulations.  TTB plans to propose these revised regulations for industry and public comment sometime before the end of 2016.
  3. Finalize new regulations on specially denatured and completely denatured alcohols.  Most notably, the new regulations would re-classify many specially denatured alcohol products as completely denatured alcohols – greatly reducing the amount of regulatory oversight over such products.  The final regulations would build off a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published in June of 2013, and TTB expects to finalize these regulations shortly.
  4. Propose new regulations to permit the self-certification of flavors and other non-beverage articles as eligible for “drawback.”  By permitting industry self-certification, TTB would greatly reduce the number of regulatory filings required of the flavor, extract and fragrance industries.  TTB expects to publish proposed regulations before June 2016, coupled with a “Temporary Rule” permitting industry members to begin self-certification immediately.
  5. Revise the Distilled Spirits Plant (DSP) regulations to reduce the TTB-mandated monthly reports required by DSP operators from four to two.  $11,000 to $16,000.Already subject to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 2011, TTB plans to press ahead with a “Supplemental” Notice by March 2016.
  6. Make an inflation-adjustment to the civil penalties for violations of the Alcohol Beverage Labeling Act of 1988, which mandated the now-familiar Government Warning on all alcohol beverage labels.  TTB plans to publish a Final Rule in 2016 to raise the maximum penalty for violations from $11,000 to $16,000.

In addition to the six priority items above, TTB’s portion of the Unified Agenda includes dozens of other rulemaking projects, from those completed in the most recent fiscal year to issues expected to be first raised in a rulemaking notice during the following year.  As with prior years, the industry must view TTB’s expected publication and completion dates with a great degree of caution, as resource challenges, political pressure and other factors often delay the rulemaking process.

Click here to view the Statement of Priorities.

Click here to view the All Treasury Agenda.




TTB Publishes Semi-Annual Regulatory Agenda with Plans and Goals for the Coming Year

Late last year, the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) published its semi-annual regulatory agenda in the Federal Register.  The agenda provides useful insights into TTB’s regulatory plans and goals for the coming year.  As in prior years, however, observers should recognize that TTB often announces ambitious regulatory plans and deadlines that it does not meet.

TTB identified five priority projects for 2015.  First, TTB wishes to update and modernize its regulations on the labeling and advertising of wine (Pt. 4), distilled spirits (Pt. 5) and beer (Pt. 7).  In describing the initiative, TTB seems most interested in simplification and streamlining, not in the imposition of significant new labeling and advertising requirements.  Second, TTB seeks to further de-regulate and streamline its oversight of denatured alcohol and rum, a move that could help the competitiveness of U.S. industrial operations that employ alcohol.  Third, TTB wishes to amend its export and import regulations to harmonize them with the International Trade Data System (ITDS), thereby transitioning to an all-electronic import and export environment.  Fourth, TTB hopes to implement self-certification of the formulas for flavors, extracts and other non-beverage products made with alcohol.  Fifth, TTB plans to review its distilled spirits plant regulations (Pt. 19) in order to replace the current four monthly report forms required for reporting with two forms.

Leaving priorities aside, the semi-annual agenda reports on a number of rulemaking initiatives that should attract the interest of regulated industry members.  This note will group the most significant based on the affected industry:

Multiple Alcohol Beverage Categories

  1. TTB pledges to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to modernize its wine, spirits, and beer labeling and advertising regulations.  As noted above, this is a 2015 priority item for the Agency.
  2. TTB plans to issue an NPRM late in 2015 to explore whether to retain, revise or repeal the current standards of fill requirements for both wine and distilled spirits.
  3. TTB plans to issue a Final Rule requiring the electronic submission of many applications, including those for original and amended basic permits.
  4. TTB expects to issue an NPRM in April 2015 to amend its import and export regulations to make them compatible with ITDS.  This is a 2015 priority item.

Wine Projects

  1. TTB hopes to issue an NPRM on certain wine terms that were first raised to the industry in an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published by TTB in 2010.
  2. TTB plans an NPRM in July 2015 to propose authorizing additional treatments for use in winemaking.
  3. TTB expects to publish an NPRM late in 2015 to clarify the labeling of certain flavored wines.

Distilled Spirits Project

  1. TTB hopes to issue a supplemental NPRM late in 2015 to propose replacing the current four monthly forms filed by distilled spirits plant operators with two forms, thereby streamlining distillers’ reporting burdens.  TTB views this project as a 2015 priority.

Non-Beverage and Industrial Alcohol Projects

  1. TTB plans to issue an NPRM on the self-certification of non-beverage product [...]

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Join Marc Sorini and Art DeCelle at the Wine, Beer & Spirits Law Conference – September 18-19, 2014

Wine, Beer & Spirits Law 19th Annual National Conference
The Mayflower Renaissance Hotel
Washington, D.C.
September 18-19, 2014
Click here to register.
View the conference brochure.

McDermott Speakers
Marc E. Sorini, Partner, Program Co-chair
Arthur J. DeCelle, Counsel

Please join McDermott partner and program co-chair, Marc Sorini, at the Wine, Beer & Spirits Law 19th Annual National Conference on September 18-19, 2014.  This year’s program will bring direct access to experts in the alcohol beverage industry, including speakers from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Beam Suntory, BLDS, the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control, Diago North America, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, E&J Gallo Winery, the Federal Trade Commission, Ippolito Christon & Co., New Belgium Brewing Company, New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Department of Law and Public, Safety, Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Precision Economics, Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Washington State Liquor Control Board, and the Wine Institute, as well as speakers from many of the nation’s leading law firms.

Of particular note, Marc Sorini will make a  presentation titled, Federal Excise Tax Strategies and Tactics.  McDermott counsel Art DeCelle will be moderating a panel of representatives from the industry’s leading national trade associations to discuss “The Future of Federal Regulation of Alcohol.”

To view the full conference brochure, click here.  For more information and to register, please visit: http://cle.com/WashingtonDC.




FDA to Regulate Brewers and Distillers That Sell Waste Grain for Animal Feed

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will publish its Preventive Control Rule for Feed next Tuesday, October 29, 2013.  The FDA’s Fact Sheet about the proposed rule can be found here.  The comment period is 120 days and comments accordingly should be due on or around February 26, 2014.  More information is available on the following FDA webpage: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm366510.htm.

Quite notably, the FDA rule proposes to cover breweries and distilleries if they sell spent grain to farmers for use in animal feed.  This aspect of the rule could regulate hundreds of breweries, distilleries and ethanol plants as animal feed producers.  The rule does propose exempting smaller companies, suggesting between $.5 and $2.5 million in feed sales as the appropriate threshold for regulation.

Among other things, application of the proposed rule to a facility would require:

  1. a written food safety plan;
  2. hazard analysis;
  3. preventive controls for hazards that are reasonably likely to occur;
  4. recall plan for animal food with a hazard that is reasonably likely to occur;
  5. monitoring;
  6. corrective actions;
  7. verification; and
  8. associated record keeping.

The proposed rule also would establish specific good manufacturing practices (GMP) for animal feed.

Any brewer or distiller currently supplying spent grain for feed should pay attention to these proposed rules.  Participation in the comment period may reduce the impact of these regulations or obtain some exemption for the industry.  If those efforts fail, companies above the regulation’s size threshold (whatever that turns out to be) must either gear up to comply with these rules or consider new ways to dispose of their spent grains.




FDA Issues New Rules on Gluten Labeling

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a final rule that defines what characteristics a food has to have to bear a label that proclaims it “gluten- free,” “without gluten,” “free of gluten” and “no gluten.”  The rule applies to all FDA-regulated alcohol beverages, which include wines (and ciders) below 7 percent alcohol by volume, and malt beverages that are not made with both barley and hops; but does not apply to alcohol beverages regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), including all distilled spirits, wines that contain 7 percent or more alcohol by volume, and malted beverages that are made with both malted barley and hops.  The notice includes a commitment by the FDA to work with TTB to harmonize labeling issues.  The two agencies consult as needed under an interagency Memorandum of Understanding, and TTB may develop new guidance based on the FDA final rule.

For brewers, FDA intends to issue a proposed rule on gluten-free labeling of hydrolyzed and fermented foods (like beer).  This rule will address compliance when analytical methods are not available because the food is fermented or hydrolyzed or contains fermented or hydrolyzed ingredients.  FDA intends to address the “gluten-free” labeling of beers subject to FDA’s labeling requirements in that proposed rule.

In light of this, FDA will exercise enforcement discretion with respect to the requirements for “gluten-free” labeling for beers subject to FDA labeling requirements.  This will extend to beers that currently make a “gluten-free” claim and that are:  (1) made from a non-gluten-containing grain or (2) made from a gluten-containing grain, where the beer has been subject to processing that the manufacturer has determined will remove gluten.  This enforcement discretion pertains only to these beers subject to FDA labeling requirements that make a “gluten-free” claim as of August 5, 2013 pending completion of the rulemaking process with respect to fermented or hydrolyzed products.  To the extent that a beer manufacturer wants to make a new gluten-free claim that is not present on a label as of August 5, 2013, they should contact FDA regarding the possible expansion of FDA’s consideration for the exercise of enforcement discretion related to such labeling.

FDA expects beer manufacturers using a “gluten-free” claim to take appropriate measures to prevent cross-contact with gluten-containing grains during production, processing, storage or other handling practices.  Last, FDA notes that beer manufacturers whose beers are subject to FDA’s labeling requirements can make claims about the beer being processed to reduce gluten provided such statements are truthful and not misleading.  FDA cites as examples the statements in TTB’s interim policy on gluten content statements (“Product fermented from grains containing gluten and [processed or treated or crafted] to remove gluten.  The gluten content of this product cannot be verified, and this product may contain gluten.”)

For those interested in the application of FDA’s final rule to gluten-free claims about other FDA-regulated products, one of the criteria for using the claim “gluten-free,” is a gluten limit of less than [...]

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TTB Proposal on Industrial Alcohol

On June 27, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on specially denatured alcohol (SDA), completely denatured alcohol (CDA) and related amendments to federal regulations governing non-beverage “industrial” alcohol.  In the NPRM, the TTB makes a host of proposals to reduce regulatory burdens on the industrial alcohol industry and update regulations to align with current practice.

The NPRM contains a great many recommendations that you or someone on your staff should review with care.  Primary among the changes, however, are the following:

  1. Reclassifying two often-used SDA formulas, SDA # 12-A and SDA #35, as CDA formulas.  This change considerably reduces the regulatory burden associated with using these formulas.
  2. Issuing “general use” formulas for articles made with any of 15 SDA formulas.  Again, this change greatly reduces the regulatory burdens associated with using these SDA formulas.
  3. Issuing three new “general use” formulas for uses involving duplicating fluids, ink solvents and certain proprietary solvents.
  4. Authorizing the export of SDA by dealers, instead of only distilled spirits plants as currently authorized.
  5. Authorizing the export of articles that would not qualify for domestic distribution because they are not sufficiently denatured.  This change may substantially impact ethanol export operations, as some other countries’ standards for the denaturing of fuel alcohol are not as stringent as the TTB standard.
  6. Removing from the regulations SDA formulas no longer in use.

Taken together, the proposals represent a significant step towards simplifying TTB’s regulation of industrial alcohol production and distribution.  One can certainly envision a bolder liberalization, but in many instances Internal Revenue Code statutes prevent more radical changes to current regulations and policies.  Although not likely a high priority in today’s political environment, Congress would be wise to revisit those statutes, as many date back to Prohibition or just after repeal.

Current SDA and CDA producers and users should examine their current operations in light of the proposed regulations and should consider submitting comments to TTB, which are due on or before August 26, 2013.




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