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Related tags India whiskey Adulteration Alcohol
India’s alcohol industry is well-known for facing many challenges in terms of food safety and adulteration, even more so since the advent of COVID-19 which saw alcohol counterfeits topping the list of overall counterfeit cases in India throughout 2020.
Alcohol has consistently ranked within the top five products susceptible to counterfeiting in the Authentication Solution Providers’ Association (ASPA) annual State of Counterfeiting in India reports over the past few years, facing major issues ranging from ingredient adulteration to trademark infringement.
In an attempt to target such adulteration more forcefully for premium products within the whiskey sector in particular, FSSAI has published a set of standards defining high-value whiskeys and the labels that can be attached to these dubbed the Food Safety and Standards (Alcoholic Beverages) First Amendment Regulations 2023.
“These regulations will cover whiskeys made from malt and grain to clarify the definitions of [high-value] single-distillate products,” FSSAI CEO Kamala Vardhana Rao said via a formal statement.
“For single malt whiskey, this must be a distillate obtained from fermented mash that uses malted barley without adding any other grain, which is distilled in pot still only, and produced in a single distillery.
“For single grain whiskey, this must be a distillate obtained from a fermented mash that uses malted or unmalted grain and produced in a single distillery. Single grain whiskey shall not include single malt whiskey and blended malt whisky or blended grain whiskey.”
The labels attached to these products will not be allowed to use the terms ‘single malt whiskey’ or ‘single grain whiskey’ if the product contained in the bottles does not fulfil all of the points included in the FSSAI standards.
Significantly, the specification of these definitions means that there is no longer any grey area in terms of what constitutes single-distillate whiskey products which are generally considered higher quality - and thus higher in price point.
“In addition to this, we have also decided that all labelling for all alcoholic beverages must not contain any nutritional information [in order to avoid confusing consumers],” Rao added.
“The only concession to this rule will be information regarding caloric energy content, which must be stated in kcal.
“This energy content declaration is not compulsory, though industry can include this on a voluntary basis.”
These regulations will formally come into enforcement in India starting March 1, 2024.
Despite these changes, the question remains as to whether simply making changes to alcohol regulations on paper will be sufficient to make a dent on the alcohol adulteration problem in India, particularly as this has been ongoing for several years.
“In India, alcohol is particularly prone to being targeted for counterfeits,” ASPA Secretary Chander Shekar Jeena told us.
“This applies to both cheap and branded alcohols as these are always in high demand, [a situation] that is very attractive to those making such adulterated products as the profit margins are very high.
“These attractive profits, along with consumer susceptibility due to the cheaper prices and a lack of penalisation and evidence, continue to pose a big challenge and indeed illegal methods of producing and smuggling liquor are getting more ingenious – and dangerous.”
ASPA believes that a more comprehensive strategy including tougher enforcement as well as technologically-focused food safety measures need to become more commonplace in the industry if real change is to be made.
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