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Diageo Says FTC Decision On Four Loko Paves Way For New Labeling Rules

February 13, 2013

Diageo has hailed a ruling by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as a significant step toward the company’s goal of providing serving information on its beverage alcohol labels. The ruling, issued yesterday, was made in regard to flavored malt brand Four Loko. The FTC is requiring Four Loko to seek approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) for labeling that informs consumers when containers of its products hold more than two servings of alcohol. Diageo North America executive vice president Guy L. Smith says it could have much wider ramifications.

“When the TTB approves the FTC order for Four Loko, it stands to reason they’d then approve it for any other alcoholic beverage,” Smith told Shanken News Daily this morning. “This is an issue we’ve been working on for a long time, and we plan to take advantage of it. We see (the ruling) as a big step toward giving consumers more information to make responsible alcohol choices.”

Smith added that the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) has been a supporter of serving fact labeling over the years, but said change can be difficult in the drinks industry. He noted that spirits labeling hasn’t changed much in the nearly eight decades since Prohibition. Government has been resistant on the issue, “but they now seem to be taking a more open view toward alcohol facts labeling, and that’s a good thing,” Smith says. “We hope to be able to provide serving information on our labels in the near term.”

In its ruling, the FTC provided a sample 2-inch by 1.25-inch “Alcohol Facts” label, including information such as container size, alcohol-by-volume, servings per container, serving size and the U.S. dietary guideline defining one serving as “0.6 ounces of pure alcohol.”

Four Loko producer Phusion Projects LLC has 90 days to provide the Alcohol Facts label on its products that are over 20 ounces, upon receipt of TTB approval. The FTC said its ruling “settled charges against (Phusion) for falsely claiming that a 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko contains the alcohol equivalent of one or two regular 12-ounce beers, and that a consumer could drink one entire can safely on a single occasion.” After a warning from the FDA on alcoholic energy drinks in 2010, Phusion voluntarily reformulated Four Loko to remove caffeine, guarana and taurine from its recipe, but stuck with its large-size can format.


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