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Labeling debate continues.

Even though Anheuser-Busch announced last week that it would begin including the alcohol content on labels of the Budweiser group of products, other brewers have not been quick to follow suit.

A-B's decision is ironic since the company has fought such a move for years, most recently in court when rival Adolph Coors Co. challenged the labeling law as unconstitutional.

Last fall, a federal judge struck down the law that had kept alcohol content information off beer labels since the 1930s.

Although the U.S. government is appealing the rulings, brewers now have the option of noting the potency of their brews on cans and labels.

Now despite its victory, Coors has chosen not to disclose alcohol content on its products until it is certain that such a move will be both permanent and nationwide. Miller Brewing Co. has taken a similar stance.

Their uncertainty reflects a Justice Department decision to appeal the Coors decision while the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has approved new labels for Anheuser-Busch and a Chicago-based importer of European beers. ATF says several other parties have applications pending.

Several states have separate statutes preventing content disclosure, but Anheuser-Busch says it will begin lobbying them to fall in line with the new federal rules.

Among those states barring alcohol content labeling are New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

The labeling debate flared in 1991 when G. Heileman Brewing Co. sought to introduce PowerMaster malt liquor, with 7.3 percent alcohol by volume. The ATF eventually rejected Heileman's product proposal.

Coors, which had been fighting a "wimpy beer" whispering campaign by competitors, decided to get the law changed to set a "level playing field" for consumer choice.

Fears of "strength wars" among brewers are unfounded, said Coors, because today's consumers are looking for less alcohol, not more. Disclosing alcohol content on the product's label would allow consumers to make better-informed buying decisions, the company said.

The new labels on Budweiser, Bud Light and Bud Dry will begin appearing next month. The labels will show that Budweiser and Bud Dry contain 5 percent alcohol by volume, while Bud Light contains 4.2 percent.

Microbrewers have supported disclosing alcohol content, according to the Institute for Brewing Studies. Microbrews often contain more alcohol than national brands, the lBS said.
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Title Annotation:alcohol content on beer labels
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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