The Treasury Department yesterday killed a proposed regulation that would have required labels on alcoholic beverage containers to list the ingredients or provide an address where consumers could write for the information.
In a statement, Assistant Treasury Secretary John M. Walker said, "Based on the information available to us, which is fairly extensive, we are unable to conclude that the benefits to consumers of ingredient labeling for alcoholic beverages outweigh the costs that would be passed on to them as a result of the labeling requirement.
"It is simply a case where the costs are relatively clear and easy to calculate, whereas the benefits are speculative."
It was a change of tune for the department, which said when the regulation was first proposed last year that it would offer "benefits and savings which exceed the cost of ingredient labeling."
The regulation had been opposed by the California congressional delegation, winemakers and alcoholic beverage manufacturers. The members of Congress estimated that the rule would cost $90 million a year.
But supporters of ingredient labeling, such as Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the cost would be negligible because many of the manufacturers would have to change their labels within the next few years anyway to comply with other rules. The labeling regulation was not scheduled to take effect until 1983.
Supporters contended that consumers need to know the ingredients in alcoholic beverages to protect themselves from additives and foods to which they may be allergic.
In its statement, Treasury said the Food and Drug Administration already approves all ingredients in beer and wine and that existing Treasury regulations "are sufficient to protect the consumer and ensure product integrity through the establishment of standards of integrity."