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FSSAI Regulation of Alcoholic Beverages in India

Alcoholic beverages have a long history in India, intertwined with cultural, social, and religious practices. Despite this rich heritage, the regulation of alcoholic beverages in India is complex and multi-faceted, governed by a combination of central and state laws. Understanding the regulatory framework is crucial for businesses, policymakers, and consumers alike. This blog provides a comprehensive overview of the regulatory landscape surrounding alcoholic beverages in India.

FSSAI Regulation of Alcoholic Beverages in India

FSSAI is a statutory body established under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, headquartered in New Delhi. FSSAI has been established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, and is responsible for the design and implementation of regulatory guidelines and policies concerning the food and beverage industry. However, the Food Safety and Standards (Alcoholic Beverages) Regulations, 2018, mark a significant step towards regulating the alcohol industry in India, aiming to protect consumers and maintain high standards of quality and safety. These regulations came into effect on April 1, 2019, and they establish comprehensive standards for the manufacture, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages.

Definition of alcoholic beverages under FSSAI Regulation of Alcoholic Beverages

A brew containing more than 0.5% alcohol by volume is considered as alcoholic beverage. The ethanol used in the production of alcoholic beverages shall be of agricultural origin as per the Food Safety and Standards (Alcoholic Beverages) Regulations, 2018.

Scope and Applicability of FSSAI Regulation of Alcoholic Beverages in India

The regulations apply to all categories of alcoholic beverages, including:

  • Distilled Alcoholic Beverages such as whisky, brandy, rum, gin, vodka, and tequila.

  • Fermented Alcoholic Beverages such as wine, beer, cider, and sake.

  • Low Alcoholic Beverages such as alcopops and other ready-to-drink beverages with low alcohol content.

Labeling Requirement under FSSAI Regulation of Alcoholic Beverages in India

Mandatory Information: Labels must include the name of the product, alcohol content by volume, manufacturer's name and address, batch number, date of manufacture, and best before date.

Allergen Information: Any potential allergens present in the product must be clearly indicated.

Health Warnings: Labels must carry a statutory warning about the health risks associated with alcohol consumption, such as "Consumption of alcohol is injurious to health" and a statutory health warning must be displayed on the label. For example, "Consumption of alcohol is injurious to health" and "Be Safe - Don’t Drink and Drive. For imported products, the country of origin must be mentioned.

Specific Requirements for Different Types of Alcoholic Beverages

  • Wine: Information about the grape variety, vintage (year of production), and geographical indication (if applicable) should be included.

  • Beer: The type of beer (lager, ale, stout, etc.) and the brewing date or batch number must be indicated.

  • Spirits:The type of spirit (whisky, vodka, rum, gin, brandy, etc.) and the age (for aged spirits like whisky

Standards and Testing:

Imported alcoholic beverages are subject to quality and safety standards as defined by the FSSAI. Samples may be tested by FSSAI-approved laboratories to ensure they meet Indian standards for contaminants, additives, and overall safety.

Alcoholic beverages shall be free from chloral hydrate, ammonium chloride, paraldehyde, pyridine, diazepam, narcotics, and psychotropic substances, including caffeine, except naturally occurring caffeine.

Advertising restrictions

In mainstream media such as television, newspapers, magazines, hoardings, etc., advertising of alcoholic beverages is forbidden. However, most brands choose to promote using surrogate advertisements in the Indian market.

Alcohol Prohibited States: In India, there are a number of dry states like Gujarat, Nagaland, Mizoram, a portion of Manipur, and Bihar where it is illegal to sell or distribute alcohol. However, hotels in Gujarat are permitted to sell alcohol; alcoholic drinks may be imported specifically for that use.

Registration of alcoholic beverages:

In India, product registration varies by state/union Territory and is specific to the product. Ideally, the goods should be registered by your importer for each state in which the distribution of alcohol will be carried out. There is an annual charge for each registration, and they are only good for 12 months from the date of issue and can be renewed after expiry. The cost of product registration varies from one state to another.

FSSAI Registration: Importers must register with the FSSAI and obtain a food import license.

Import Licensing: Typically, FSSAI issues a license for hard liquor and spirits and a separate license for wines and beers. Multiple brands may be imported by the importer/distributor under these licenses. The permits for importers and distributors of alcoholic beverages are valid for one fiscal year and must be renewed annually. A yearly fee is associated with each license; however, the importer/distributor often bears this expense. The length and price of the license renewal are again subject to change based on the state government and the excise department.

  • Importers of alcoholic beverages must obtain an Importer Exporter Code (IEC) from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT).

  • Specific import licenses for alcoholic beverages may also be required from the state excise departments where the beverages will be sold.

Customs duties and taxes:

Import duties on alcoholic beverages are levied according to the Customs Tariff Act. Additional taxes, such as the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and state-specific excise duties, are also applicable.

Documentation:

Importers must provide necessary documentation to customs authorities, including the bill of entry, commercial invoice, packing list, certificate of origin, and any required licenses or permits.

Post-Import Compliance

Ensure that the imported beverages continue to comply with the local excise laws and regulations of the state where they will be sold.

Maintain proper records and documentation for audits and inspections.The regulation of alcoholic beverages in India is a dynamic interplay between economic interests, public health objectives, and cultural attitudes. While the central government sets the broad framework, state governments have significant autonomy to tailor regulations to their specific needs and contexts.

Having detailed information and professional help is essential for navigating the complex regulations involved in alcohol registration. Ensure your products meet the highest safety and quality standards with Atrixio's specialized regulatory consultation services.

Contact Artixio today at info@artixio.com for expert regulatory consultation services.

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