Nearly a Third of Alcoholic Beverages Have Inaccurate Labels

By John Lavitt 04/16/14

According to a 2013 survey, thirty percent of all booze labels have faulty information about alcohol content.

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Investigators from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) discovered that 30 percent of alcoholic beverages have inaccurate liquor content labels.

In a February 10 survey compiled by the TTB, alcohol content has been dramatically understated in many of the cases, placing consumers at significant risk. While most alcoholic beverages had accurate labels, the transgressors not only had more alcohol than stated, but even exceeded the maximum amount of proof allowed.

The TTB’s Alcohol Beverage Sampling Program is conducted at random every year on alcohol products available across the country. The latest 2013 survey sampled 275 distilled spirits, 239 malt beverages, and 154 wines. A total of 190 products were found to be non-compliant, with 80 of the non-compliant products being distilled spirits with the highest alcohol content. Although the TTB did uncover 15 distilled spirits with less alcohol than claimed on the label, over 50 contained more alcohol than expected.

The bartending trade publication, The Spirits Business, has said that the inaccurate labels are a significant risk to the public. “They pose a threat to consumers who are unaware of how much alcohol they are drinking.”

For social drinkers, they may be drinking a lot more than they intended, placing them at obvious risk. This particularly is true for social drinkers outside their homes at bars, restaurants, parties, and the like. If an 80 proof (40 percent) shot of rum turns out to be 100 proof (50 percent), casual drinkers easily could be pushed over the legal driving threshold of 0.08 blood alcohol concentration. Considering the past national track record of drunk driving tragedies, innocent lives could be endangered.

According to the TTB, “their mission to protect the public includes ensuring that labels on alcohol beverages contain adequate descriptive information and are not likely to mislead consumers.” The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau states it will raise awareness of the problem and develop educational tools to assist distillers “with their gauging skills” using standardized scientific methods.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.