India in stranded booze fiasco

25th June, 2014 by Neal Baker

Over a million bottles of Scotch and wine are being piled in Indian warehouses as a months-long squabble over labelling between importers and customs officials continues.

Customs officer imports exportsThe Wall Street Journal reports that late last year the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India began impounding hundreds of shipping containers of imported food and alcohol because they failed to comply with the country’s strict regulations.

With the food by now having been shipped back or left to rot, the booze is all the remains in custody in two giant warehouses in Delhi and Mumbai.

The reason that customs are giving is that the imported drinks do not give detailed ingredients on their labels.

This means that unless an imported bottle of Scotch lists water, malted grain and yeast as its components, it will be seized.

It is estimated that at least 50 containers of drinks have been stranded since these labelling rules – which had been an unenforced law since 2011 – were suddenly imposed on imports last year.

Importers are having to cancel their orders in fear that their stock will meet the same fate, and there are concerns that small-scale importers and retailers will be forced out of business unless the problem is resolved.

A Food Safety and Standards Authority spokesperson said that importers were given two years to comply with the new rules. “The traders and exporters must realise that if the rules are there, they must be respected,” they continued.

Spirits importers contend that the label requirements are unnecessary and near-impossible to follow.

“They rejected a shipment of champagne because it did not say wine on the label. Prosecco was sent back because it said ‘made in Italy’ in Italian, not English,” said a wine importer who did not want to be named.

They went on to question the expertise of the customs officials, saying: “One inspector accused an importer of adulterating wine after finding traces of methyl alcohol in a bottle, but methyl alcohol is a natural byproduct of the wine-making process.”

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