The federal government is about to take a step backward regarding labeling with the metric system. Comments are needed by October 30.
It seems the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)—which is part of the Department of the Treasury—has proposed adding U.S. customary measures in addition to metric system measures on some booze. This would be a regressive action as most alcohol volumes are currently listed with only metric measures, as in 750 mL and 1.75 liters of wine and distilled spirits.
The only exception I’ve found by personal observation is beer. (Maybe because we don’t export much beer to countries that require metric units—which is most of them.)
Of course, trying to coax this “bottom-line” information out of the rulemaking documents is almost impossible unless you know what you’re looking for. I certainly struggled.
I read the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) so you don’t have to
The relevant documents are:
27 CFR Part 4: Elimination of Certain Standard of Fill for Wine
(If you really want to get twisted around, also see this entry called “Labeling and Advertising of Wine.”)
27 CFR Parts 5, 7, 26, and 27: Elimination of Certain Standards of Fill for Distilled Spirits; Amendment of Malt Beverage Net Contents Labeling Regulation
Both documents were incredibly difficult for me to decipher, but it looks like it comes down to this (from the webpage for the “Fill of Wine” information):
TTB is also proposing to amend the labeling regulations for distilled spirits and malt beverages to specifically provide that distilled spirits may be labeled with the equivalent standard United States (U.S.) measure in addition to the mandatory metric measure, and that malt beverages may be labeled with the equivalent metric measure in addition to the mandatory U.S. measure. Such labeling is currently allowed, but that is not explicitly stated in current regulations. This revision will align the distilled spirits and malt beverage labeling regulations with current policy and also with the wine labeling regulations. The wine labeling regulations state that wine may be labeled with the equivalent standard U.S. measure in addition to the mandatory metric measure. (Emphasis mine.)
While the proposed rule for both were made on July 1, 2019, with a deadline for comments by August 30, 2019, the deadline was extended to Wednesday, October 30.
The extension document for the revised October 30 document deadline (left)
(Why they didn’t update the new comment date on the actual documents, I don’t know. A revision issue?)
The bottom line?
Right now, most liquor has just metric measures but these proposed changes apparently want to add U.S. customary units. In addition, neither proposed rulemaking mentions which units would be listed first and second on labels. This makes a huge difference in what gets people’s attention. I consider this a big step backward in metric system adoption regardless of the order eventually listed.
Please weigh in on this issue
To comment, go to the respective pages below and hit the “Submit a formal comment” button on the top of the page.
- Elimination of Certain Standards of Fill for Wine
- Elimination of Certain Standards of Fill for Distilled Spirits; Amendment of Malt Beverage Net Contents Labeling Regulation
Note that the page says:
You are filing a document into an official docket. Any personal information included in your comment text and/or uploaded attachment(s) may be publicly viewable on the web.
Thus, be careful about what you include in your text if you don’t want it to be public.
I encourage you to IMMEDIATELY comment on these proposed changes in the comment sections and make your voice heard.
Will it make a difference?
I can’t promise it will, but at least we can let “the powers that be” know that people care about this issue and we don’t want to backslide.
Why did I wait so long to post this? Let’s face it, most of us wait until a deadline looms before we respond. The deadline looms. Please take a couple of minutes and respond.
It could make all the difference in the world. Only history will tell.
Thanks for your attention.
I’m afraid your getting upset over nothing. The law already allows the bottlers to add USC if they want to. They just choose not to.
If what you assert is true, then why propose rule changes through the Code of Federal Regulations? What law do you reference? Please educate me.
Apparently, this is an issue for both the U.S. Metric Association and the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology under the Department of Commerce. You seem to have some knowledge beyond them. Please share it. Thanks!
Plus, did you mean “you’re” as in “you are” rather than “your”? I know grammar is declining in general, but I try to do my best on this front and take my responsibilities seriously.
I consider it a reflection of my accuracy in general.
The way I understood the original intent of a “hard metric” wine and spirits marketing was to acclimate recalcitrant and ignorant Americans as to relevant metric units because we drink so much. 200 mL (1/5 liter), 375 mL, 750 mL, 1.5 L and so on. It was a great idea at the time as was/is soda in liter capacities but since the government has completely abandoned moving towards the future, where generations of American kids can be prepared for science, technology, education and engineering and have decided we’re good here in the 9th century, I guess it really doesn’t matter if we label alcohol (and everything else for that matter) using proprietary and obsolete units of measure inspired from various Roman emperors and 12th century kings feet. It’s a shame, really. Hard to believe that the liter bottle of soda (being sold as 1L and not “33.8 flozzes (1 liter)” is effectively illegal in an industrial superpower, in the 21st century, on an entirely metric planet (with one holdout) I am just thankful we embraced metric currency, Arabic numerals, fire and the wheel – I can only assume Americans think these are American inventions and worthy of our exceptional use. The Queen Anne “galun” can use some revision as well. The queens “gallon” that America loves so much is a puny 22 mL (less than a shotglass for you Americans) from being a true metic (4 L/4000 mL) unit. We seem to be unable or unwilling to revisit the discussion of further metrication here, so let’s keep buying our way out if it. As Andrew Carnegie once said “our current system of weights and measures is unworthy of an intelligent nation”. The fact that we’re stuck here so late in the game suggests his statement implies something quite disturbing.