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Alcohol warning labels receive complaints from Congress.

Alcohol warning labels receive complaints from Congress

Supporters of the law requiring all new bottles and cans of alcoholic beverages to carry a warning directed at drivers and pregnant women are complaining that the warning is too small.

"It's almost impossible to read," said Sen. Albert Gore (D-TN), pointing at a sample beer bottle. "The ATF has purposely allowed the industry to come up with a label that is illegible."

Gore was joined by Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC) and several public and private medical officials in lambasting the Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) for the small narrow type of the warning - half the size of newspaper type, in many cases.

Under the law that became effective November 18, the label of each can or bottle of alcoholic beverage must carry these words: "Government Warning: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery and may cause health problems."

Thurmond and Gore said the first part of the warning is especially necessary because many Americans remain unaware that alcohol is the leading recognizable cause of mental retardation in infants.

Under the ATF's temporary regulation implementing the law, the warning may be affixed virtually anywhere on a bottle or can, complain the new law's critics.

Dot Koester, a spokeswoman for the ATF, took note of the criticism and said, "Remember, this is a temporary rule. We hope to get our final regulations out before the end of the year, and certainly we'll be considering everybody's complaints."

Frederick Goodwin, administrator of the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Assn., said fetal alcohol syndrome, a cluster of irreversible birth defects, affects 2.2 of every 1,000 infants born in the U.S. It ranks ahead of Down's syndrome and spinal bifida as a cause of mental retardation, he said.

Goodwin stressed that there "is no known safe level of alcohol consumption" for pregnant women. Jim Sanders, president, the Beer Institute, an industry lobbying arm, said, "We believe the information on the labels should have little or no impact since the risks of alcohol abuse are common knowledge to the public. However, we will comply with whatever final regulations are issued."
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Dec 4, 1989
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