[Federal Register Volume 65, Number 39 (Monday, February 28, 2000)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 10434-10436]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 00-4572]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

27 CFR Parts 4, 5, and 7

[Notice No. 892; Re: Notice No. 884]
RIN 1512-AB97


Health Claims and Other Health-Related Statements in the Labeling 
and Advertising of Alcohol Beverages (99R-199P); Public Hearing

AGENCY: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Department of 
the Treasury.

ACTION: Notice of public hearings on a proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: ATF is announcing the dates and locations of five public 
hearings that it will hold concerning health claims and other health-
related statements in the labeling and advertising of alcohol 
beverages. In an earlier notice published in the Federal Register, we 
detailed a proposal to, among other things, prohibit the appearance on 
labels or in advertisements of any statement that makes a substantive 
claim regarding health benefits associated with the consumption of 
alcohol beverages unless such claim is properly qualified, balanced, 
sufficiently detailed and specific, and outlines the categories of 
individuals for whom any positive health effects would be outweighed by 
numerous negative health effects. In consideration of the comments 
received, ATF has determined that the public interest would be best 
served by the holding of public hearings on this matter. One purpose of 
the hearings is to gather additional information to determine whether 
the negative consequences of alcohol consumption or abuse disqualify, 
as misleading, these products entirely from entitlement to any health-
related statements.

DATES: See Supplementary Information section for hearings dates.

ADDRESSES: See Supplementary Information section for hearings 
addresses.
    Letter notifications and written comments are to be submitted to: 
Chief, Regulations Division; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; 
P.O. Box 50221; Washington, DC 20091-0221; ATTN: Notice No. 892. Submit 
e-mail comments to: nprm@atfhq.atf.treas.gov. E-mail comments must 
contain your name, mailing address, and e-mail address. They must also 
reference this notice number and be legible when printed on not more 
than three pages 8\1/2\"x11" in size. We will treat e-mail as originals 
and we will not acknowledge receipt of e-mail. See the Participation 
section of this notice for alternative means of providing letter 
notifications and written comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nancy Kern or Jim Ficaretta, 
Regulations Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 650 
Massachusetts Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20226 (202-927-8210).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    In February 1999, ATF approved two directional statements on wine 
labels. One directed consumers to their family doctors for information 
regarding the ``health effects of wine consumption.'' The second 
referred consumers to the Federal Government's ``Dietary Guidelines for 
Americans'' for such information. Based on the evidence before us, 
including a consumer survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental 
Health Service Administration's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention 
(CSAP), we concluded that we had an insufficient record to disapprove 
the labels. The CSAP survey concluded that the drinking patterns of 
most of those who participated in the study would not be influenced by 
these messages.
    The approval of these labels generated considerable interest from 
Federal health officials, members of Congress, and public advocacy 
groups, who expressed concern about consumer perception of the label 
statements. Surgeon General David Satcher, in particular, stated that 
people might draw an incorrect message from these labels. Moreover, we 
have become aware of a number of press accounts interpreting the 
directional statements as actual health claims about the benefits of 
alcohol consumption and the government's approval of the labels as an 
endorsement of drinking.
    On October 25, 1999, we invited comments on our current policy on 
health claims and health-related statements by publishing the policy as 
a proposed regulation in the Federal Register (Notice No. 884; 64 FR 
57413). The regulation would specifically prohibit the use of any 
health claim in the labeling or advertising of alcohol beverages unless 
it is balanced, properly qualified, sufficiently detailed and specific, 
and outlines the categories of persons for whom any positive effects 
would be outweighed by the numerous negative health effects.
    We also sought comments on whether even such balanced and qualified

[[Page 10435]]

statements should be prohibited because the negative consequences of 
alcohol consumption are so serious as to make any health-related 
statement on labels or in advertisements inherently misleading. In 
addition, we sought comments on whether directional health statements 
such as those approved in February 1999, tend to mislead consumers 
about the health consequences of alcohol consumption.
    The comment period for Notice No. 884 was scheduled to close on 
February 22, 2000.

Hearings

    On December 9, 1999, we announced in a press release that after the 
close of the comment period we would hold public hearings in cities and 
dates to be announced. The hearings would provide us with a 
comprehensive record on which to base final regulations on health 
claims.
    Due to the adverse consequences of alcohol abuse, ATF is concerned 
about any risk of misperception resulting from the two approved label 
statements. Because we are seeking public comments on this very issue, 
we also announced that we would suspend action on any new applications 
for label approval bearing similar ``directional'' health-related 
statements pending the completion of the rulemaking proceedings.
    The schedules of dates and locations of the five public hearings 
have been set as follows:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Cities                                    Dates                              Locations
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Washington, DC........................  April 25-April 27.......................  Washington Convention Center,
                                                                                   900 Ninth St., NW.,
                                                                                   Washington, DC.
San Francisco, CA.....................  May 23-May 25...........................  Embassy Suites San Francisco
                                                                                   Airport, 150 Anza Blvd.,
                                                                                   Burlingame, CA.
Atlanta, GA...........................  June 27-June 29.........................  Embassy Suites Hotel at
                                                                                   Centennial Olympic Park, 311
                                                                                   Marietta St., NW., Atlanta,
                                                                                   GA.
Chicago, IL...........................  July 25-July 27.........................  Radisson Hotel & Suites
                                                                                   Chicago, 160 East Huron St.,
                                                                                   Chicago, IL.
Dallas, TX............................  August 22-24............................  Radisson Hotel & Suites, 2330
                                                                                   West Northwest Highway,
                                                                                   Dallas, TX.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The number of days for each hearing may change depending on the 
volume of requests to testify. The hearing schedule for each site will 
be as follows: 9:30 a.m.-12 noon and 1:30 p.m.-5 p.m. (an evening 
session(s) may be held if necessary)
    Persons desiring to make oral comments at the hearings should 
submit a letter, on or before April 7, 2000, notifying ATF of their 
intent to comment. Any person unable to attend the hearings or who 
prefers not to present oral comments may submit written (or e-mail) 
comments before or after the hearings. ATF will accept written (or e-
mail) comments until September 29, 2000. Written (or e-mail) comments, 
including comments addressing Notice No. 884, must be received on or 
before September 29, 2000.

Participation

    Any person desiring to testify at the hearings should notify ATF by 
submitting a letter. Such letter must contain the name of the person 
who will testify, the company/organization represented (if any), 
address, and daytime telephone number where such person can be 
contacted. Persons requesting to testify will also indicate in the 
letter a preference for the date and time (morning or afternoon) they 
wish to testify. To the extent possible, we will honor these 
preferences. The letter must be accompanied by an outline which briefly 
summarizes the topics the commenter will discuss and the information to 
be presented. Each topic to be discussed should be separately numbered 
and each numbered topic should specify the information to be presented.
    You may submit letter notifications and written comments by 
facsimile transmission to (202) 927-8602. Facsimile comments must:
     Be legible;
     Reference this notice number;
     Be 8\1/2\"x11" in size;
     Contain a legible written signature; and
     Be not more than three pages long.
    We will not acknowledge receipt of facsimile transmissions. We will 
treat facsimile transmissions as originals.
    Any person unable to attend the hearings or who prefers not to 
present oral comments may submit written (or e-mail) comments before or 
after the hearings. ATF will accept written (or e-mail) comments until 
September 29, 2000. In written (or e-mail) comments, each topic to be 
discussed should be separately numbered and each numbered topic should 
specify the factual basis supporting the views, data, or arguments 
presented. Written (or e-mail) comments addressing Notice No. 884 will 
also be accepted until September 29, 2000. All written (or e-mail) 
comments received on or before September 29, 2000, will be considered 
in the development of a decision on this matter.

Special Accommodations

    The hearing rooms are physically accessible to people with 
disabilities. A sign language interpreter will be present at all 
hearings. Requests for other auxiliary aids should be directed to Nancy 
Kern at (202) 927-8210 at least 10 days prior to the hearing date.

General Information on Hearing Procedure

    The hearings will be conducted under the procedural rules contained 
in 27 CFR 70.701(a)(3) and will be open to the public, subject to the 
limitations of space. In the event attendance exceeds available seating 
space, persons scheduled to present oral comments will be given 
preference in respect to admission. Time limitations make it necessary 
to limit the length of oral presentations to five (5) minutes; however, 
the actual time available will be determined in part by the number of 
registered speakers. While it is anticipated that all persons who 
desire to comment will have an opportunity to speak, time limits may 
not allow this to occur. For this reason, we encourage organizations to 
have one representative comment rather than individual members. 
Commenters will not be permitted to trade their time to obtain a longer 
presentation period. However, the hearing officer may allow any person 
additional time after all other commenters have been heard. To the 
extent that time is available after presentation of oral comments by 
those who are scheduled to comment, others will be given an opportunity 
to be heard.

[[Page 10436]]

    In order to ensure that ATF will have the full benefit of their 
views, even if time constraints limit an oral presentation, persons 
presenting oral comments are urged to supplement their oral statement 
with a more complete written statement. A written statement submitted 
to ATF at the time of presentation of the oral comment will be 
considered part of the hearing record.
    After making an oral presentation, a person should be prepared to 
answer questions from the hearing panel on not only the topics 
presented but also on matters relating to any written comments which he 
or she has submitted. Other persons will not be permitted to question a 
commenter. However, questions may be submitted, in writing, to the 
hearing officer who will evaluate their relevance. If the hearing 
officer determines that elicitation of further discussion would be 
beneficial, they may be presented to a commenter for a response.
    Persons will be scheduled, if possible, according to the date and 
time preferences mentioned in their letter notification to us. We will 
confirm by telephone the date and time a person is scheduled to present 
oral comments. Letter notifications received after the cutoff date, and 
up to two (2) working days preceding a scheduled hearing, will be 
honored to the extent practicable on a first-come-first-serve basis. 
Any scheduled commenter not present at a particular hearing when called 
will lose his or her place in the scheduled order, but could be 
recalled after all other scheduled commenters have been heard.
    We will prepare an agenda listing the persons scheduled to comment 
at a particular hearing and copies will be available at the hearing. In 
addition, copies of the notice of proposed rulemaking and all received 
written comments in response to the notice will be available at each 
hearing for public inspection.
    Other formats for holding the hearings are being considered. For 
example, the hearing officer would oversee testimony presented by a 
panel of several persons during a specified time period (e.g., morning 
session) who share or represent similar views, e.g., members of the 
medical profession, representatives from health care organizations, 
representatives of various industry trade organizations, and 
representatives from consumer advocacy organizations. We will determine 
the format for the hearings once we know the number of people 
interested in presenting oral testimony and the content of their 
testimony.

Comments

    Any person participating in the hearings or submitting written 
comments may present such data, views, or arguments as they desire. 
Comments that provide the factual basis supporting the views or 
suggestions presented will be particularly helpful in developing a 
reasoned regulatory decision on this matter. However, comments 
consisting of mere allegations or denials are counterproductive to the 
rulemaking process. We specifically request that commenters consider 
making comments on the following questions:
    1. How do consumers perceive the two ``directional'' health-related 
statements approved by ATF?
    2. Do consumers interpret the approved directional statements as 
actual substantive health claims about the benefits of alcohol 
consumption? Explain.
    3. Do consumers interpret the Government's approval of the 
directional statements on labels as an endorsement of drinking? 
Explain.
    4. Do directional health-related statements such as those approved 
by ATF tend to mislead consumers about the health consequences of 
alcohol consumption? Explain.
    5. Do the negative consequences of alcohol consumption or abuse 
disqualify, as inherently misleading, any health-related statements on 
alcohol beverage labels, including directional statements? Explain.
    6. The proposed regulations would prohibit any health claim in the 
labeling or advertising of alcohol beverages unless it is balanced, 
properly qualified, sufficiently detailed and specific, and outlines 
the categories of persons for whom any positive effects would be 
outweighed by the numerous negative health effects. Given the space 
limitations of an alcohol beverage label, what types of health claims 
would meet this standard? Explain.

Drafting Information

    The author of this document is James P. Ficaretta, Regulations 
Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

List of Subjects

 27 CFR Part 4

    Advertising, Consumer protection, Customs duties and inspection, 
Imports, Labeling, Packaging and containers, and Wine.

 27 CFR Part 5

    Advertising, Consumer protection, Customs duties and inspection, 
Imports, Labeling, Liquors, and Packaging and containers.

 27 CFR Part 7

    Advertising, Consumer protection, Customs duties and inspection, 
Imports, and Labeling.

Authority and Issuance

    This notice of hearing is issued under the authority of 27 U.S.C. 
205.

    Signed: February 22, 2000.
Bradley A. Buckles,
Director.
[FR Doc. 00-4572 Filed 2-25-00; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4810-31-P