Spirit labelling initiative launched

An initiative aimed at lifting compliance with alcohol labelling laws has been launched by Spirits New Zealand. ‘Label it Right’ will see information sent to trade detailing what a legal alcohol label looks like as well as allowing illegally labelled product to be reported.

“The programme has three main purposes,” said Spirits NZ CEO Robert Brewer. “Primarily it is educational – letting importers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers know what a legally labelled bottle of alcohol should look like as well as the penalties under the Food Act for non-compliance. Secondly, through the Label it Right web portal, anyone who sees badly labelled product can upload details of it which will get sent to the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) for their assessment. Thirdly, by raising awareness about labelling compliance we know we will help reduce illegal importation since, globally, there is a direct correlation between poorly labelled parallel imports and the illegal alcohol trade.

“And although this initiative is from the spirits industry the labelling issues and requirements apply equally right across the beverage alcohol sector.”

Standard labelling requirements include:

  • Name of the category of alcohol. For example, for spirits this would typically be: “WHISKY”, “RUM”, “BRANDY”, “VODKA”, “GIN”, “TEQUILA”, etc.
    • Name and physical address of the New Zealand (or Australian) importer or supplier.
    • Alcohol content. For example, a percentage such as 5.5% for some types of beer; 12.5% for some types of wine or 38% for some spirits.
    • A standard drinks declaration.
    • A lot or batch code.
    • Net contents.

“All labels must be in English and legible.”

Robert says MPI, who enforces New Zealand’s labelling laws, was consulted during the development of the initiative.
“The Label it Right web portal reflects the information that MPI requires before investigating a claim and they have also contributed to the information going out to trade in the next few days,” he said. “It is important for anyone involved in the beverage alcohol sector to understand that It is an offence to import or sell alcohol that is not labelled properly. Although MPI will use a range of interventions if it finds mislabelled product there are large fines – up to $100,000 – that could be applied as well as prison sentences in serious cases.

“So the message is pretty clear – labelling matters so Label it Right.”