Alcohol and Tobacco Product Safety and Testing

TTB’s laboratories assure that product integrity is not compromised and that prohibited ingredients are not contained in alcohol products or in tobacco associated with a potential counterfeit product. TTB protects the public by monitoring the regulatory compliance of these products through:

  • Consumer complaint and investigations;
  • Inspections of wineries, breweries, distilleries, and manufacturers of nonbeverage products;
  • Product checks in the retail market for regulatory compliance;
  • Sulfur dioxide waiver requests for wines;
  • On-site technical assistance to the regulated industries and to TTB investigators;
  • Examination of tobacco products to support product authenticity, and investigations of diversion, smuggling, and moonshine manufacturing operations;
  • Certification of chemists and laboratories for the export of wines or distilled spirits; and
  • Evaluation of new technologies implemented by the regulated industries.

Additionally the TTB laboratories conduct testing for:

  • Harmful contaminants, adulterants, and unauthorized additives (e.g. pesticides, toxins and toxic metals);
  • Grappa checks for methanol;
  • Any new winemaking processes;
  • Mycotoxin contamination in wine and malt beverages;
  • Specially Denatured Alcohol formula evaluation; and
  • The pre-import of beverage alcohol products.

Findings and Determinations

Import Safety

The public has raised concerns about safety issues with various imported products, ranging from children's toys and cat food to toothpaste and seafood. TTB continues to work towards import safety through its collaboration with the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other Partner Government Agencies (PGAs).

Prohibited Ingredients

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for determining which ingredients are prohibited from being used in food and/or beverage products. The TTB laboratory enforces these restrictions during testing of alcohol product samples. For a list of those ingredients see the FDA's regulations.

Coloring Material

Many alcohol beverage products contain coloring agents. Coloring agents are added to impact color which is not natural to the product. There are two categories of coloring agents that are used - FDA Certified Colors and Non-certified Colors. Certified colors are synthetic dyes approved by the FDA for use in beverage products. The non-certified colors are natural coloring agents approved for use in alcohol beverages. See a list of these agents and other limited ingredients.

Flavors in Alcohol Beverages

The manufacturer must provide information on any FDA-limited ingredients and TTB-limited ingredients. The manufacturer must disclose to TTB those ingredients that are limited, or would affect the labeling of the alcohol beverage (e.g., FD&C Yellow #5).

Bioengineered Foods

Bioengineered Foods are food or drink made from plant varieties that are developed from using recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (rDNA) technology (which is often referred to as “genetic engineering” or "biotechnology.")

There are no apparent health or safety risks associated with bioengineered foods used in the production of alcohol beverages. TTB has no basis for concluding that alcohol beverages produced from bioengineered ingredients differ from other alcohol beverages in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, alcohol beverages made from plant ingredients developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than alcohol beverages made from ingredients developed by traditional plant breeding.

Green icon with a white phone. CONTACT US

For more information about product testing contact the Scientific Services Division by email at Submit Inquiry.
Direct correspondence to:

Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
Director, Scientific Services Division
6000 Ammendale Road
Beltsville, Maryland 20705-1250

For other inquiries see our Contact Us page for specific topics.


Page last reviewed: April 12, 2017
Page last updated: February 11, 2020
Maintained by: Scientific Services Division