The When and How of FDA Beer Law

Who is the FDA?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the government organization primarily tasked with ensuring that all food and drug products sold in the United States are safe, wholesome, and properly labeled.  The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act requires that most foods bear nutrition labels that meet several FDA requirements.

Do Breweries Have to Comply with FDA Label Rules?

Not typically.  Most beers are excepted from FDA label compliance, but instead are governed by the TTB.  As reflected in the 1987 Memorandum of Understanding between the FDA and the TTB’s predecessor (the ATF), the TTB is responsible for the promulgation and enforcement of regulations with respect to the labeling of distilled spirits, wines, and malt beverages.

Some labels for beers, however, are not governed by the TTB.  For instance, FDA (instead of TTB) label requirements apply to:

  • Beers made from substitutes for malted barley (like sorghum, rice, or wheat); and
  • Beers made without hops.

What are the FDA label rules?

Probably the most significant difference between the FDA and TTB label approval processes is that the FDA does not pre-approve of labels.  This means that a brewery creating a non-TTB beer has to take even greater care to meet the FDA’s label requirements so as to avoid problems (i.e., lawsuits) from non-compliance down the road.

The FDA imposes some label requirements on products that are not required by the TTB.  For instance, the FDA requires that the label display Nutrition Facts (see the full FDA requirements here).  Notably, however, the FDA does not require that a beer label display alcoholic content.  Non-TTB beers must still comply with some FDA requirements, for instance they must still display a Government Health Warning Statement.


To say the least, compliance with the federal government’s complicated bureaucracy for beer law is no easy task.  I highly recommend that you consult with a competent attorney to ensure you are fully compliant with these and other laws.

About Dan

Daniel Christopherson of is a beer and trademark attorney at Lehrman Beverage Law. He is an avid craft beer enthusiast who helps new and established breweries develop their business models, comply with the TTB and FDA, and protect their intellectual property.
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