FSSAI has refused to clear the liquor consignments that are lying at various ports for labelling irregularities. FSSAI regulations say that ingredients, including water and additives must be mentioned on the labels as part of labelling requirements for alcoholic beverages. FSSAI’s contention is that the consumer has the right to know the ingredients on foods and beverages that they buy.
The liquor industry had appealed to the FSSAI to set aside labelling regulations for liquor imports till April 2015 but the FSSAI is not willing to make this concession. Consignments of liquor, worth almost Rs. 70 crores, continue to remain at various ports in India since February 2014. Liquor importers are worried as the festive season is round the corner and this is when they make almost 60% sales. However, FSSAI says that liquor firms themselves are to blame for this inconvenience as they have failed to comply with labelling regulations.
The Scotch Whiskey Association has put forward another plea to FSSAI. They say that since liquor is also on the state list they have to first meet the guidelines of FSSAI and then get approval of the state governments for selling liquor. Since state governments approve labels only at the beginning of the fiscal year, the Scotch Whiskey Association feels their appeal for waiver till April 2015, to comply with the regulations, is valid. However, FSSAI is adamant that liquor firms are no exception and must comply with labelling regulations.
FSSAI says that alcohol has been clubbed with food in India under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and regulations have been in place since 2011. They feel this much time was sufficient for liquor firms to comply with the labelling regulations. FSSAI also dismissed the Associations contention that labelling requirements in India are different from those of overseas markets. Another reason why FSSAI is not in favour of extending the date for the compliance by the liquor imports is because the authority feels this will set a bad precedence and similar demands from other industry segments will arise.
Even as the Indian arm of the UK based Scotch Whiskey Association is in talks with FSSAI to resolve the issue, renowned liquor firms like Pernod Ricard and Diageo have already suspended shipments of liquor to India. The shortfall in imported liquor is likely to see a spurt in spurious liquor and illegal imports.