Polyethylene Lined Liquor Bottles
Proprietors of Distilled Spirits Plants, Importers, and
Purpose: The purpose of this circular is to inform
you of a forthcoming ATF Ruling concerning the approval
of polyethylene lined containers for bottling distilled
spirits. The ATF Ruling will read as follows:
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has
received inquiries regarding the suitability of containers
with polyethylene liners as liquor bottles.
Section 5301(a) of Title 26, United States Code,
authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to regulate the
kind of containers designed or intended for use in the
sale of distilled spirits. Sections 19.11, 194.11,
250.11, and 251.11 of Title 27, Code of Federal
Regulations, state the definition of a liquor bottle as:
"A bottle made of glass or earthenware, or of
other suitable material approved by the Food and
Drug Administration, which has been designed or
is intended for use as a container for distilled
spirits for sale for beverage purposes and which
has been determined by the Director to adequately
protect the revenue."
The containers in question are designed in such a
manner that the only component that comes in contact with
the distilled spirits is a lining made of polyethylene.
Hydrogen peroxide may be used to sterilize the lining.
Food and Drug Administration regulations provide for the
use of polyethylene as a component of articles intended
for use in contact with food, including alcoholic
beverages, in 21 CFR 177.1520. Hydrogen peroxide is
approved as a sterilizing agent for polyethylene
food-contact surfaces, including those for alcoholic
beverages, under 21 CFR 178.1005.
The Bureau is aware that a proof gain of up to
two-tenths of a degree (and a corresponding very small
water volume loss) may occur. This slight increase in
proof is typical of other nonglass containers and can
be minimized by avoiding high storage temperatures, by
ensuring uniformity of the wall thickness of the container,
and by ensuring market turnover. ATF has concluded that
this characteristic poses no jeopardy to the revenue
because the taxable commodity, the alcohol, does not travel
through the container wall. The quantity of alcohol does
not change between the time of bottling and the point of
tax determination. Therefore, it has been determined that
the use of polyethylene lined containers as liquor bottles
provide adequate protection to the excise tax revenue.
In accordance with the requirements imposed by the
National Environmental Policy Act, the Bureau recognizes
the environmental assessment prepared by the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) on polyethylene used in food contact
articles. The conclusion reached by the FDA on pertinent
issues was that the polyethylene has a low toxicity and is
biodegradable; therefore, the use and disposal would not
have a significant environmental impact.
Since the containers using the polyethylene lining
are not considered standard liquor bottles, the Bureau is
requiring that anyone using these containers apply for
approval of the containers as distinctive liquor bottles
under 27 CFR Part 19. The containers will also be required
to be manufactured in approved standards of fill.
Held, containers with polyethylene lining may be used
as containers for distilled spirits, provided:
(1) The polyethylene lining is in compliance with
Food and Drug Administration regulations,
(2) Approval has been received for the container as a
distinctive liquor bottle; and
(3) The container is manufactured in an approved
standard of fill.
Inquiries: Inquiries concerning this circular should
refer to its number and be addressed to the Associate
Director, Compliance Operations, Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20226. Attention: Distilled Spirits
and Tobacco Branch.