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Fireball EU recall will ‘reignite’ labelling row

The decision to recall bottles of Fireball in Europe due to concerns over the amount of propylene glycol they contained will “reignite the debate” around alcoholic drinks ingredients.

After bottles of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky were recalled in some EU countries, debates over the labelling of alcohol ingredients will “reignite”

According to Spiros Malandrakis, senior alcoholic drinks analyst for Euromonitor International, the order in Finland, Norway and Sweden to pull bottles of Sazerac’s Fireball Cinnamon Whisky from supermarket shelves, also has the ability to “undermine quality perceptions” in the burgeoning flavoured whiskey liqueur category.

The product was later recalled in the UK, a process overseen by the brand’s UK distributor Hi-Spirits.

Sazerac had accidentally shipped batches of Fireball made to US regulations to Europe, however the whiskey liqueur contained higher levels of propylene glycol – a chemical found in anti-freeze – than are permitted in the EU.

The product, however, met the regulations of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which allows 50 grams of the ingredient per kilogram. The EU is far more stringent and allows up to 1g of the ingredient per kilogram, while the US formula of Fireball is thought to contain 8g.

The FDA deemed propylene glycol as an additive “generally recognised as safe” to be used in consumer products such as food, animal food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, plus industrial products.

Sazerac, meanwhile, has hit back at criticisms its own levels of propylene glycol are unsafe to drink, and claimed: “All Fireball formulas are absolutely safe to drink and the use of PG in Fireball creates no health risk whatsoever.”

However, Malandrakis claims that while Fireball, which owns 14% share of liqueurs volumes in the US (Euromonitor), has “blazed a trail for flavour sophistication initiatives across the spirits category”, the recall has prompted doubt and intense scrutiny in the flavoured whiskey liqueur sector.

“In an era when craftsmanship, authenticity and natural credentials are trampling gimmicky positioning, artificial corporate offerings and chemical additives, Fireball’s nonchalant admission will not be enough to dispel doubts and intense scrutiny,” he said.

“While brand sales will not witness a sudden and cataclysmic nosedive, the seeds of purist criticism for the wider flavoured whiskey liqueur segment are now sown.”

Furthermore, Malandrakis said that the news could add fuel to the on-going debate over drinks labelling, and particularly calls for “greater clarity” in ingredients listings.

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