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BATF and alcohol packaging

Some experts believe that government regulation may stifle innovative packages or new packaging materials for alcoholic beverages. Unlike most food products, regulations for these products go beyond ensuring food safety.

FDA and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms share jurisdiction over packaging for alcoholic beverages and though they consult on many issues BATF has additional objectives. It regulates bottle sizes for alcoholic beverages and the kind and size of containers for distilled spirits. Its standards of fill are designed to prevent a “proliferation of bottles sizes and shapes” that would confuse consumers about the quantity and net contents of the package.

Uniform bottle sizes also make it easier for BATF to calculate federal excise taxes. The agency is also concerned about potential loss of water which results in an increase in the alcohol concentration (proof) of the product affected by packaging.

When it comes to new substances used in alcohol beverage containers BATF accepts those explicitly cleared by FDA in its food indirect-additive regulations under the new food-contact notification (FCN) system.

BATF will not however accept a company’s determination that a new substance has GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status. A company must obtain written confirmation from FDA. The approval process becomes much more demanding when a proposed new container material is not cleared by indirect food additive or GRAS regulations or by FCNs.

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In addition BATF may demand proof that any material used in the production process does not affect the fermentation or aging process of a distilled spirit or that the packaging material does not affect the proof of the beverage over time.

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