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Most frequent questions and answers

Certificates of Label Approval

Every alcohol producer must acquire federal and state label approval for their beverage’s label. Most producers are very familiar with the basic requirements to obtain their Certificate of Label Approval (COLA); however, here are some frequent inquiries we receive:

TTB requires producers of some alcoholic products to submit documents detailing the formulas of their beverages if the manufacturing process is not generally recognized as a traditional process. The objective is for TTB to evaluate the product to make sure the label identifies the product in an adequate and non-misleading way. At times, TTB may require submission of a sample of the product for lab analysis.

Maybe. If your fermented cider contains more than 7% alcohol by volume, then you need a COLA. If your fermented cider contains less than 7% alcohol by volume, then the Food and Drug Administration has primary jurisdiction over labeling. Regardless, if the alcohol content is over 0.5% by volume, then TTB’s requirement for the Government Warning Statement is triggered.

It depends. Federal regulations state: “the name of a vineyard, orchard, farm or ranch shall not be used on a wine label, unless 95 percent of the wine in the container was produced from primary winemaking material grown on the named vineyard, orchard, farm or ranch.”

Importing and Exporting

Whether you are seeking to import a product into the United States or export goods to a foreign country, there are many regulatory hurdles to overcome before you enter into international commerce. Some common questions about importation and exportation are:

Anyone seeking to import beverage alcohol into the United States for commercial purposes must apply for an Importer’s Basic Permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Along with this application, a contract, or a letter of intent, with a foreign supplier must be supplied to TTB before a permit will be issued. Before a specific product is imported, the importer will need to obtain a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) from TTB for each unique product or label. Registering with the FDA is typically required as well, as the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 mandates anyone who manufactures, processes, packs, or holds food (including alcohol beverages) for consumption in the United States to do so. The importer must ensure that the foreign producer of any alcohol beverage being imported is registered under this act, and the FDA must receive advance notice of any importation. Importers are also required to meet any state or local requirements. The importer is responsible for checking with the applicable state alcohol control boards to determine what additional requirements are needed.

The importer is responsible for paying federal excise tax on all imported beverage alcohol. These taxes are paid when the product is removed from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) port of entry. CBP is responsible for the collection of these taxes, as well as any duties owed.

Every country has their own regulations regarding the importation of foreign products. Therefore, it is always necessary to examine the requirements of each country to which you seek to export your product. International standards have developed a set of commonly used documents for the exportation of alcohol beverage products, and TTB can provide these export certificates to industry members:

  • Certificate of Free Sale
  • Certificate of Origin and/or Age
  • Certificate of Health
  • Certificate of Sanitation
  • Certificate of Authenticity
  • Sanitary Statement/Certificate
  • Certificate of Manufacturing Process

Producers should contact TTB to determine if any consolidated certificates have been created between the U.S. and the foreign country as this could simplify the process.

Depending on the countries involved, there is a high likelihood that the contract will be governed by the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG). Such contracts typically set out terms for ordering, delivery, price, payment conditions, warranties, and the appropriate documentation to accompany the goods. Remedies for nonpayment, non-delivery, or defective product delivery should be addressed. Additionally, it is important to address rules on restitution, damages, and mitigation of harm along with standard contract provisions.

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