A U.S. District Court judge yesterday ordered the Treasury Department to require liquor manufacturers to list the ingredients used in wine, liquor and beer or to print an address on cans and bottles telling consumers where such information could be obtained.
The department had issued such a requirement, designed primarily for drinkers with allergies, under the Carter administration in June 1980 after a decade of study by the department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
But after the 1980 presidential elections, department officials, acting under an executive order by President Reagan to reduce federal regulations, rescinded the requirements in November 1981. The BATF said that the costs to consumers and to the alcoholic beverage industry were "not commensurate with the benefits which might flow from the additional label information."
In a 23-page opinion, Judge John H. Pratt said the department "acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner" in rescinding the Carter administration-approved regulations. Pratt said Reagan's general executive order was an "insufficient basis" for rescinding the regulations, especially in light of clear congressional action to provide the department with sufficient funds to implement the new rules.
Pratt cited a private study, conducted for the BATF, which concluded that costs to the industry for the additional labeling could range from $12 million to $150 million a year. The study also estimated that between 475,000 and 1.7 million people may suffer adverse reactions to various additives used by the industry. The study said there was "strong evidence" in the medical research literature that some ingredients in alcoholic beverages could cause adverse, though not necessarily severe, health effects.
Pratt said that information supplied by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer health organization that sued the department after the reversal, showed that current regulations do not require the industry to disclose "any of hundreds of possible other foam enhancers, stabilizers, anti-oxidants, chill-proofing agents, preservatives, coloring agents, or artificial flavors which may be used in the beverages and which consumers need to know for health reasons."
Pratt threw out the department's 1981 order and gave it 30 days to announce a date, no later than one year from now, on which the original rules would take effect.
It was not known last night whether the department or the manufacturers would appeal Pratt's decision.