WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has rejected a plea by Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) and California wineries that new federal sulfite labeling regulations be limited to wines bottled after July 1, officials say.
Under current government requirements, sulfite warnings must be placed on all wines shipped after next Jan. 8, regardless of age. Vintage wine producers have complained that the regulation will result in added costs, because bottles in storage for aging as well as younger wines would have to be relabeled.
Officials confirmed Friday that William Drake, the bureau's deputy director, has rejected Wilson's plea for a "grandfather clause." In a letter to the senator earlier this month, Drake cited tests results showing that sulfites, which slow spoilage, can induce severe reactions in some asthma sufferers. It has been estimated that as many as 100,000 Americans are sensitive to the sulfur compounds.
Bill Livingstone, Wilson's press secretary, said the senator is awaiting final word from the bureau before he decides whether to seek the exemption through legislation.
Bureau spokesman Tom Hill said of his agency's possible revision of the regulations: "At this point, it's not under consideration."