U.K. moves to prevent counterfeit alcohol

Scotch_Neat_blogA new plan in the United Kingdom (U.K.) will help assure consumers that the spirits they purchase actually are what they’re marketed as.

The Spirit Drinks Verification Scheme aims to help protect the integrity of U.K.-made spirits, such as Scotch, from confusion with counterfeits or lower quality substitutions. Under the plan, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will monitor businesses involved in the creation of spirits, from the early stages of production all the way to labeling to ensure compliance with European Union regulations. The office also will publish a list of production establishments, brands and importers that have been verified by HMRC, according to a statement.

Officials say the scheme will not only help consumers, but also will protect the U.K.’s spirit producers.

“I’m delighted that this scheme is now up and running, helping protect one of the U.K.’s most important and successful export industries. The verification scheme will make sure people who buy Scotch get what they pay for – the finest spirit in the world. The Scotch Whisky industry is now worth around £4 billion to the Scottish economy and employs more than 10,000 people in Scotland,” said Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander in a statement. “The booming Scotch Whisky industry is a huge asset to Scotland and the U.K. which benefits from being part of the U.K. and European market. The U.K. government is doing its bit today to step in and make sure that cheap fakes don’t undermine this unique global export.”

Scotch will be the first spirit incorporated into the scheme, while plans to expand the oversight to other geographically significant spirits are forthcoming.  Scotch producers, importers, blenders, bottlers and labelers must apply online through the HMRC website in order to be verified. Those who do not apply for verification will be blocked from selling their products in the European Union.

“Geographical Indication status is of great commercial value to the Scotch Whisky industry. This is a step change in the protection of Scotch Whisky and should be warmly welcomed,” said Chief Executive of the Scotch Whiskey Association David Frost. “We fully support the introduction of the verification scheme by the U.K. government. It will give even more protection to consumers of Scotch Whisky. It will greatly improve the industry’s ability to stop the sale of adulterated Scotch Whiskies bottles abroad.”

Economic adulteration of spirits can range from mislabeling substandard products to appear as ones that are higher quality to substituting cheaper ingredients, some of which can be harmful to human health. For spirits, one large concern is the inclusion of methanol – an industrial solvent that can lead to blindness and death – by unscrupulous entities. In 2012, sales of hard liquor was banned for a time in the Czech Republic after more than 20 people died from counterfeit alcohol containing methanol. Libya also faced a methanol-poisoning outbreak last year, which injured more than 1,000 people.

Comments are closed.