If There’s Trouble Brewing, It’s Best To Know The Law

Holidays mean party time, but do you really know what constitutes a drink? Many revelers do not.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the amount of liquid in your container or vessel of choice – glass, can or bottle – does not necessarily match up to how much alcohol is actually in your drink. Diverse types of beer, wine and malt liquor can have different amounts of alcohol content. For example, many light beers have almost as much alcohol as regular beer – about 85 percent as much.

To clear up some of that confusion and to shed more light on an already conversational topic, the Institute for Food Laws and Regulations (IFLR) at Michigan State University has introduced a new, online-only course that it hopes will attract craft brewers, winemakers and distillers across the state – and the world, for that matter.

The new course – Wine, Beer and Spirits Laws and Regulations – begins with the start of the second semester on Jan. 8, 2018, and will examine the laws, regulations and policies that govern alcoholic beverages in the U.S. The emphasis is on federal laws, specifically regulation by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

According to IFLR Associate Director Melissa Card, the course will cover a range of topics including the industry’s primary regulators, the classification of beverages, the regulation of labeling and advertising, three-tier distribution systems, excise taxes and liability. 

Card went on to mention that the learning objectives of this course will enable students to: 

  • Recognize the overarching themes of alcohol regulation in the U.S.
  • Understand the nature of the regulatory process as it pertains to alcoholic beverages
  • Identify agencies’ roles in the regulation of alcohol beverages
  • Understand the classification of alcohol beverages
  • Introduce the concepts of labeling and excise taxation, as applied to alcohol beverages
  • Explore the distribution and sale of alcohol beverages

Card hopes to attract food industry professionals, lawyers and regulators to the class.

“One of the key takeaways from this class (for the students), in my opinion, will be the empowerment to make business decisions based on a thorough knowledge of the laws and regulations,” Card said. “We will show folks how to conduct proper research on topics – such as proper sanitary practices – without having to use outside counsel.”

Card previously was an associate in the Food, Beverage & Hospitality and Litigation Practice Groups of Clark Hill’s Detroit law office. She assisted food manufacturers on regulatory food and beverage law issues by ensuring companies comply with various federal regulations, including the handling of food and beverage safety compliance assessment issues: product recalls; monitoring legislation affecting the regulation of foods and materials that come in contact with foods; responding to FDA draft rules and guidance; and interpreting the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and various food safety and customs compliance regulations.

Card believes that most craft brewers, vintners and those involved in the distilling
of spirits should ask themselves the following questions:

  • Do you know the laws and regulations that apply to product labeling?
  • Do you have someone on staff that does?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to know where to go to find the correct information before making a decision that ultimately could cost you money or be ruled non-compliant?
  • Can you identify the federal agencies that regulate alcoholic beverages and their responsibilities?

To learn more about IFLR, visit the website at


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