Use of any word implying a product is organic or natural has come under fire in recent years, given the standards that products must be held to in order to label them as such. Recently, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has received a number of inquiries asking about use of the word “clean” – and whether this can be used in the labeling or advertising of alcohol beverage products.
“Clean” is not defined by the TTB
The TTB’s regulations neither define this word, nor have standards against use of the term. Because of this, when reviewing labels or advertisements, the TTB considers the entire message on the label or ad to decide whether the use of the word is misleading or not.
Multiple meanings of the word
The main issue with use of the word “clean” is that it can be used in multiple ways, meaning completely different things. Alcohol beverage producers most commonly use it in one of two ways:
- Using it to describe the taste of a beverage, as in “a crisp and clean wine”; or
- Using it to describe the beverage as natural or healthy.
When using the word aligning with the second definition, this could create the wrong impression for consumers that the product they are purchasing is healthy. As such, the TTB considers this a misleading health statement. This is one of the most common mistakes made on alcohol beverage advertising, specifically. Industry members should not make “false or misleading” health claims or statements.
How to know when use of the word “clean” is okay
While the TTB does not require approval of advertisements, it does offer a “pre-clearance” service at no charge to industry members. If you are unsure whether your ad language is okay to use, you may submit it to this service. Otherwise, the TTB receives referrals and complaints about advertisements that might be misleading and violate their advertising regulations.
An alcoholic beverage law attorney can also provide helpful guidance regarding best practices for labeling and advertising.