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Complaint upheld against ‘medicine bottle’ gin

Drinks regulatory body the Portman Group has upheld a complaint made against a gin brand, the bottle of which resembles a medicine bottle.

Gifting company MixPixie has been forced to discontinue its ‘Prescription Gin’ brand after a complaint made by a member of the public was upheld by regulatory body the Portman Group. MixPixie will now work with an advisory service on designing a new label for its gin.

The product, priced at £18, and which came in various flavours including Raspberry, Rhubarb & Ginger and Sloe Gin, was the result of a partnership with Friary Drinks, referred to by MixPixie on its website as “one of the UK’s leading Artisanal Spirit Producers”.

With an ABV of 18%, it was clearly stated that the product contained alcohol, and a disclaimer on the web page reads: “Please note that these are not real prescriptions, they are spoof labels intrended as a humoured style gin bottle. Please drink responsibly.”

However, a complaint was made by a member of the public over the appearance of the gin bottle, and this was upheld by the Portman Group on two counts: for encouraging irresponsible and immoderate consumption and suggesting that the product had therapeutic qualities.

The Panel noted that the bottle was designed to look like prescription medicine, in that the shape of the bottle, the name ‘Prescription Gin’ and the green cross displayed on the front of the bottle was an exact replica of a pharmacy cross in the UK.

Portman Group advisors also expressed concerns regarding text on the product which stated “Take one swig before each exam. Good luck!”. The Panel found that this encouraged the consumer to drink alcohol before an exam, which “could have serious consequences on both the individual and people around them.”

Furthermore, the Panel stated it was irresponsible to imply that an alcoholic drink was something to be prescribed or suggest that it could make an individual feel ‘better’.

Additionally, the product implied a link between consumption and curing physical and mental ailments. On the front of the bottle it stated, “Possible side effects: May include extreme relaxation, giddiness and happiness.”

The Panel therefore concluded there was a clear suggestion that the product had therapeutic qualities, which breached Code rule 3.2(j).

Nicola Williams, chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, said: “It is wholly irresponsible to present an alcoholic drink as prescription medication and suggest that consumption of it can cure mental and physical ailments. In this case, the product also created a link to irresponsible and immoderate consumption which was particularly concerning when the product was encouraging consumption based on health grounds. Caution must be exercised with tongue in cheek marketing so that it does not breach the Code”.

Despite the complaint being upheld on two counts, the Panel refused to condemn it on other alleged breaches of the Code, noting that: “The bottle referenced gin six times and the label clearly stated the alcoholic strength of the product. There was no evidence the product had an association with dangerous behaviour or a particular appeal to under-18s as the sparkles in the product were not the dominant feature, nor did the product have childish imagery, sweet flavours, contrast colours or a childish font.”

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