Three consumer groups have filed suit against the U.S. government urging action on a nearly two-decade-old petition seeking greater transparency in alcohol labeling. Center for Science in the Public Interest v. U.S. Dep’t of Treasury, No. 22-2975 (D.D.C., filed October 3, 2022).

The plaintiffs—the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America and National Consumers League—are suing the U.S. Department of Treasury and Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), calling on them to require alcohol labeling “with the same basic transparency consumers expect in foods,” such as alcohol content, calorie and ingredient information. The groups initially filed a 2003 petition along with 66 other organizations and eight individuals, including four deans of schools of public health.

“Enhanced transparency in alcohol labeling is a commonsense step that can help address the health and safety concerns related to the consumption of alcohol and would allow consumers to make informed choices about the alcoholic products they purchase,” the plaintiffs said in the complaint.

While the Treasury Department has acknowledged that labeling could be an effective means of conveying important information to consumers, the plaintiffs said the defendants “have failed to take significant action in nearly two decades to address this urgent public health and consumer protection matter.”

“As a result, Plaintiffs’ members and supporters have for years been forced to consume alcoholic products without knowing important diet, health, and safety information or possibly forgo them,” the plaintiffs said.

The plaintiffs are seeking a judgment that the government’s failure to act on their earlier petition constitutes an “unreasonable delay” under the Administrative Procedure Act, a court order requiring the defendants to issue a final decision on the relief sought, and attorneys’ fees.

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