India alcohol limits drafted

By Ankush Chibber

- Last updated on GMT

New alcohol standards will create ripples through the liquor industry, say manufacturers
New alcohol standards will create ripples through the liquor industry, say manufacturers

Related tags Alcoholic beverage

India’s top food regulator has drafted regulations for alcohol content in beer, wine and spirits sold in the country, a move that has ruffled feathers in the local liquor manufacturing industry.

The Food Standards and Safety Authority of India (FSSAI) has finalised its draft standards for all categories of alcoholic beverages including wine, beer, whisky, rum, gin and vodka.  The standards will set the maximum permissible limits of alcohol in these drinks and thus, command safety standards, the body said.

The regulations are set to be implemented in July, following a final meeting at the end of the month.

“These standards have already been approved by the FSSAI scientific committee and after final approvals, these will be put in the public domain and objections will be invited,”​ an FSSAI official said, without revealing the new limits.

The FSSAI had established an expert group in February this year to draw up benchmarks for alcoholic beverages.

Current licence standards in India allow 45.5% maximum content in distilled spirits such as whisky, rum, and gin, 12% for wine, and 8% for beer products while there are no limits for locally made beverages.

Liquor industry asks FSSAI to stay back

According to the Associated Chambers Of Commerce and Industry Of India (ASSOCHAM), India’s alcohol consumption is set to grow by 30% annually to 2015 and the country’s alcoholic beverage market, comprising beer, wine and spirits, is set to reach over US$28.3bn in 2015 from its current size of around US$10.3bn.

The new standards will cover almost all branded alcoholic beverages that are permitted for sale in India as per the current licencing regulations. It will also cover the content of grains and water. 

However, the local liquor industry is contesting the FSSAI’s authority in regulating the standards on alcohol content in branded alcoholic beverages, stating that only state governments have legislative competence to govern their manufacture and sale.

In a statement, the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies said last week that they had moved to the Bombay High Court to challenge the FSSAI’s measure, citing the existing state laws governing the manufacture and sale of liquor under India’s Excise Act.

A second legal push has also been made in the Jabalpur High Court by these liquor manufacturers who have challenged the inclusion of alcoholic drinks in the definition of food under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. When implemented last year in August, it gave the FSSAI the legal power to regulate anything that is consumed, which the act defines as food.

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