Vodka Maker Sues to Allow Health-Related Claims
The makers of vodka infused with chemicals that purportedly reduce the risk of alcohol-related damage to DNA have filed a lawsuit against the Treasury Department and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) seeking to include health-related claims in product labeling and advertising. Bellion Spirits, LLC, v. United States, No. 17-2538 (D.D.C., filed November 27, 2017). Bellion Spirits asserts that it develops alcohol beverages that protect against the adverse effects of alcohol with “safe additives.” The company petitioned TTB for permission to use health-related claims for vodka containing the additive NTX, according to the complaint, but TTB referred the petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Adopting FDA’s finding that the health claims were not adequately substantiated and that the protective effects of NTX were not established, TTB denied the petition.
The plaintiffs allege that TTB violated federal law by deferring to FDA, which used evaluative criteria designed for review of health claims related to dietary supplements and food rather than alcohol. In addition, the plaintiffs argue that the ruling violated their free speech rights because it was not “narrowly tailored to serve government interest” and that product labeling and advertising disclosures are “essential for exercise of informed consumer choice.” The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment and injunctive relief.