In a bid to streamline the Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) process, the TTB has announced that it will no longer examine COLA applications to determine whether the label images included in the applications meet the applicable type size, characters per inch, and contrasting background requirements. They will continue to review all submitted labels for inclusion of mandatory information and exclusion of the prohibited, but the TTB has asked industry members to self police when it comes to the technical character and background requirements. This does not mean, however, that the requirements can now be ignored. In the circular announcing the new policy, the TTB reserved the right to deny and return applications on type size, etc. grounds when it “deems necessary.” To that effect, the following statement will be included on new approved COLA applications:
QUALIFICATIONS: TTB has not reviewed this label for type size, characters per inch or contrasting background. The responsible industry member must continue to ensure that the mandatory information on the actual labels is displayed in the correct type size, number of characters per inch, and on a contrasting background in accordance with the TTB labeling regulations, 27 CFR parts 4, 5, 7, and 16, as applicable.
The official reason TTB has given for making the change in procedure was to reduce the time wasted in the COLA process due to image distortions in submitted electronic files. The good news is that the label approval process should be faster with this new policy in place. But the flip side is that the importers and bottlers submitting COLA applications bear greater responsibility for ensuring the labels are in compliance with the labeling regulations. In addition to reserving the right to reject non-compliant labels, TTB also has the power to revoke COLAs it has previously issued, so non-compliant labels that obtain an approval still could be rejected – even after being applied to bottles. The associated costs and logistics problems of a COLA revocation make it important to continue to pay close attention to the minutiae when creating new labels.
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