INDIA – India’s battle against alcohol adulteration has taken a significant step forward with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) unveiling stringent standards to define high-value whiskey products.
In response to the persistent challenge of alcohol adulteration, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the FSSAI aims to tackle this issue head-on.
Alcohol counterfeiting has consistently ranked among the top five counterfeit cases in India, ranging from ingredient adulteration to trademark infringement.
The FSSAI has issued the Food Safety and Standards (Alcoholic Beverages) First Amendment Regulations 2023, which specifically outline the criteria for high-value whiskeys.
“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 explained.
The standards require that single malt whiskey must be distilled from fermented mash using malted barley exclusively, without any other grain, and distilled in pot stills within a single distillery.
Single-grain whiskey, on the other hand, must be distilled from fermented mash using malted or unmalted grain and also produced in a single distillery.
Importantly, products failing to meet these criteria cannot use the terms ‘single malt whiskey’ or ‘single grain whiskey’ on their labels, reports Food Navigator Asia.
Addressing labeling and nutritional information
Furthermore, the regulations stipulate that all alcoholic beverage labeling must exclude nutritional information, except for caloric energy content, which should be stated in kcal. However, this energy content declaration remains optional.
These new regulations are set to come into effect in India on March 1, 2024.
While these changes mark a significant step in addressing alcohol adulteration, challenges persist. Counterfeiting remains a complex issue in India, with high demand for both cheap and branded alcohols enticing counterfeiters due to lucrative profit margins.
“These attractive profits, along with consumer susceptibility due to the cheaper prices and a lack of penalization and evidence, continue to pose a big challenge and indeed illegal methods of producing and smuggling liquor are getting more ingenious – and dangerous,” said ASPA Secretary Chander Shekar Jeena, in an interview with Food Navigator Asia.
The Alcohol Solution Providers’ Association (ASPA) emphasizes that a comprehensive strategy, including stricter enforcement and technologically-focused food safety measures, is essential to effectively combat the ongoing problem of alcohol adulteration in India.