In a significant development, the food regulator, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), has created a category of “Ready to Drink” or low-alcohol beverages, having an alcohol content of 0.5-8 per cent.
It has also laid down the standards, composition, and definition of such beverages as well as the safety parameters to be adopted.
Sources in the regulator said since 2018, the food safety standards for alcoholic beverages had existed but recently standards for low alcoholic and ready to drink products, including their definition and safety parameters, had been specified additionally.
“The said standard is an amendment in regulation and is not changing other existing definitions,” the FSSAI notification said.
The gazette notification, issued a few days ago, said such low alcoholic beverages would be made from spirits, a mixture of spirits, or any alcoholic beverage other than wine and beer as base. They can have natural, nature-identical or artificial flavours, and/or food additives permitted under the regulations concerned. Mixing can be with fruit or vegetable juice with or without added sugar/salt and with or without carbonation.
Welcoming the move, industry players said categorising low-alcohol beverages and ready-to-drink products made things clear for everyone in the value chain.
It helps to get the category of ready-to-drink products identified and treated separately.
It could also give a fillip to the market and facilitate over-the-counter sales sometime in future.
That apart, the FSSAI in the same notification has laid down what should constitute “country liquor” or “Indian liquor” and the constituents that should go into its making.
The notification defined country liquor or Indian liquor as alcoholic beverages obtained from distilling fermentable carbohydrates of agricultural origin.
It further said the criterion for being designated “plain country liquor” or “plain Indian liquor” was that it should be made from alcoholic distillate obtained from fermented molasses, jiggery (gur), a mash of cereals, potatoes, cassava, fruits, juice or sap of coconut and palm trees, mahua flowers or any other carbohydrates of agricultural origin.
Blended country liquor or blended Indian liquor is a mixture of an alcoholic distillate, rectified spirit, or neutral spirit.
“Country liquor has always existed. The FSSAI notification gives some sort of definition to it,” an industry player said.