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Vodka Company Claiming 'Smarter Way of Drinking' Sues U.S. Government

Everything in moderation, including moderation. It's generally a good rule in life, as well as when it comes to imbibing alcohol. And one distillery thought they had some even better advice: drink our vodka, infused with "safe additives that provide protective effects."

There's just one problem -- the regulatory agencies in control of labeling weren't too keen on some of the statements included on the vodka bottles. So now the company is suing, claiming the agencies violated the company's First Amendment rights as well as their own internal policies.

Drinking in Excess

"Bellion Spirits was founded to pioneer innovation in the alcohol beverage industry," the lawsuit explains, "through the introduction of functional alcoholic beverages, which generally retain the customary characteristics of alcoholic beverages, while providing protection for the liver and for genes against alcohol's unwanted effects." Bellion claims it can deliver "products and technologies that help to educate consumers about the chemical interactions of alcohol in the body."

Bellion made two claims about one of its additives, NTX, that caught the eye of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB):

  1. "NTX helps protect DNA from alcohol-induced damage"
  2. "NTX reduces alcohol-induced DNA damage"

The TTB nixed those NTX claims, and Bellion claims it did so improperly.

"Acted in Excess"

Professing a lack of expertise sufficient to review the science supplied to it in support of the health-related statements for alcoholic beverages," the lawsuit alleges, "TTB impermissibly, beyond the limits of its own enabling statute, delegated its statutory duty to perform the review to FDA, which agency has no statutory authority to perform that review." Bellion claims the TTB "impermissibly relied upon FDA to determine whether the health-related statements for use on alcoholic beverages were truthful and adequately substantiated under FDA's standards which are germane not to alcohol
but to dietary supplements and drugs."

Alleging that the TTB "acted in excess of its grant of statutory authority ... when it accepted FDA's review based on standards inapplicable to alcoholic beverages as a substitute for decision under its own standards," Bellion is asking for an injunction allowing it to include the statements on its vodka bottles.

The full lawsuit is below:

Bellion Spirits v. United States of America by FindLaw on Scribd