The deadline is drawing near for people who want to voice their opinions in the continuing controversy over the use of health-effects labels on wine bottles.
In late February, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms announced that they would be holding five forums for public input concerning whether labels referring to the possible health benefits of alcohol consumption should be permitted on wine bottles. Anyone who would like to participate in the forums must register with the ATF before April 7, three weeks before the first scheduled meeting in Washington, D.C.
In February 1999, the ATF approved the voluntary use of wine labels that direct consumers to consult a physician or the U.S. dietary guidelines about the possible benefits of moderate wine drinking. Two and a half months ago, the BATF suspended the approval of new labels until the federal agency received public input on the matter.
Those opposed to the labels say that promoting wine's health benefits could lead to irresponsible alcohol consumption. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., has also voiced concern that consumers may see the labels as a government endorsement of alcohol consumption.
The ATF says it is seeking information on whether the negative effects of alcohol consumption disqualify such beverages from carrying any statements that point to health benefits.
The Wine Institute, a winery trade group based in San Francisco, is encouraging members of the wine trade and wine consumers to make their voices heard. "The four-month comment period provides a new, governmentally authorized open forum to educate the public and decision-makers regarding the developing consensus on the health effects of moderate wine and alcohol consumption," said Wine Institute president John De Luca.
The hearings will be held in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and the San Francisco area. The meetings are scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with an hour and a half off for lunch. Extra days and evening sessions may also be added if the volume of testimony merits more time.
Washington, D.C.: Washington Convention Center