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Industry Circular

Number: 85-4

Date: June 17, 1985

Department of the Treasury

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

Washington, D.C. 20226

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LABELING AND ADVERTISING ALCOHOL BEVERAGES AS "NATURAL"

Proprietors of Distilled Spirits Plants, Bonded Wine Cellars, Taxpaid Wine Bottling Houses, Brewers, Wholesalers, Importers and others concerned:

Purpose: The purpose of this circular is to advise all concerned of ATF's current policy and guidelines on the use of the term "natural" in the labeling and advertising of alcohol beverages.

Background: Notice No. 552 (50 FR 960) announced the withdrawal of proposals to define the term "natural" as discussed in Notice No. 362 (45 FR 83530). Notice No. 552 concluded that no additional regulations should be promulgated addressing the "natural" issue since the record indicates there is no consensus among consumers, food technologists, nutritionists or government agencies as to a meaning for the term. ATF has permitted the term "natural" to be used on labels and in advertising of alcohol beverages on a case-by-case basis following the regulations and guidelines established over the years. Since the regulatory proposals have been withdrawn, ATF will maintain the current policy and guidelines governing the use of "natural" in labeling and advertising. Accordingly, a ruling will be published in the ATF Bulletin as follows:

Pursuant to Notice No. 552 (50 FR 960), ATF is setting forth long standing policy used to determine the permissibility of the term "natural" in the labeling and advertising of alcohol beverages. These policies reflect actual historical application of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, Sections 5(e) and 5(f), prohibiting false and misleading representations to consumers in the labeling and advertising of alcohol beverages. These policies do not define the term "natural," but indicate when ATF takes no exception to its use.

27 CFR 4.21 of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act regulations relating to wine permits the use of the term "natural" in reference to grape wine, citrus wine, fruit wine and wine from other agricultural products which contain no added alcohol or brandy. Also, Revenue Ruling 58-431 disallowed the use of the term "natural" in reference to wines produced under the provisions of Section 5386 of the Internal Revenue Code regarding special natural wine. The ruling gave as basis for this the requirement that wines must be designated in conformity with the standards of identity. The word "natural," therefore, could not be used to describe special natural wine since it does not conform to any standard of identity which sanctions the use of that term. Since the 1958 ruling, the Internal Revenue Code has been amended to permit the production of other wine products which do not conform with a standard of identity and are not special natural wines, but which contain flavoring and/or coloring materials or other materials not authorized for use in standard wine (Sec. 201, Pub. L. 85-859, 72 Stat. 1381, as amended, 1387, as amended (26 U.S.C. 5365, 5388)). As in the case of special natural wines, such other wine products would not properly be designated as "natural." Regarding distilled spirits, ATF's historical position has been that products which were solely the result of distillation, with or without permissible mingling or simple filtration which did not alter the class and type, were allowed to be labeled and advertised as "natural" products.

Regarding malt beverages, ATF has permitted the word "natural" in reference to products made without adjuncts (additives), as listed in the "Adjunct Reference Manual" maintained by the United States Brewers Association, Inc., other than those additives which do not remain in the finished product.

Held, ATF will continue to allow the use of the term "natural" in reference to finished alcohol beverages as follows:

(1) Any grape, fruit, citrus or agricultural wine may be designated "natural" if it is made without added alcohol or brandy as specified in 27 CFR 4.21. No other type of wine may be designated as "natural."

(2) A distilled spirit may be designated "natural" if it is solely the result of distillation, with or without mingling of the same class and type of spirits or simple filtration which does not alter the class or type of the product.

(3) A malt beverage may be designated "natural" if it is made without adjuncts (additives) other than those additives which do not remain in the finished product, either by precipitating out or by combining with other components of the product and the resulting compound precipitates or is filtered out. Adjuncts (additives) are those substances listed in the "Adjunct Reference Manual" maintained by the United States Brewers Association, Inc.

Rev. Rul. 58-431, 1958-2 C.B. 1004, is hereby superseded.

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.

* U.S.GP0:1985-0-461-843/36914

W.T. Drake

Acting Director

 
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