Regulatory Amendments for New Class of Flavoured Purified Alcohol

Health Canada has recently amended Division 2 (Alcoholic Beverages) of the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) regarding flavoured purified alcohol to define this new class of alcoholic beverage and to set restrictions on its alcohol content. The Regulations Amending the Food and Drug Regulations (Flavoured Purified Alcohol) SOR/2019-147 was recently published in the Canada Gazette Part 11, Volume 153, No.11.

At the federal level, Health Canada regulates alcohol under the regulations for food, through the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR). The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for the enforcement of the FDR as it relates to food.

Alcoholic beverages are also subject to the federal Excise Act and Excise Act, 2001. The Department of Finance is responsible for the development and evaluation of the Excise Act. The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA), with the support of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), is responsible for its enforcement.

Health Canada has developed guidance in consultation with the CFIA and provincial and territory liquor boards to guide assessments and the implementation of these regulatory amendments.

Division 2 (Alcoholic Beverages) of the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) has been amended to:

  • 1. Define a new class of flavoured purified alcoholic beverages that meet both of the following conditions:
    • are obtained from an alcohol base that has been purified during the course of manufacturing through a process other than distillation and from which most of the naturally occurring substances other than alcohol and water have been removed; and
    • to which have been added, during the course of manufacturing, any substance, or any combination of substances, that imparts flavour.
  • 2. Restrict the alcohol content in beverages in this new class. Beverages that meet the definition of the new class are limited to 25.6 mL of alcohol (representing 1.5 standard drinks) when they are packaged in containers of a volume of 1 000 mL or less. This includes both non-resealable and resealable containers. Manufacturers have flexibility in determining how to comply with the alcohol content restriction: reformulate their beverage to modify the alcohol content (% alc/vol); resize the beverage containers; or combine both measures.
  • 3. Create an exemption from the alcohol content limit for beverages in the new class that are packaged in glass containers of a volume of 750 mL or more. This includes both non-resealable and resealable glass containers.

The new requirements are effective since May 29, 2019 with no transition period. As there are possible health risks related to flavoured purified alcohol, instances of non-compliance will result in compliance and enforcement activities by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

While it is the responsibility of the industry to comply with regulatory requirements, compliance will be monitored as part of ongoing domestic and import inspection programs, respecting the resources that the CFIA has for enforcement and compliance verification. Appropriate enforcement action will be risk-based.

Compliance with and enforcement of alcohol regulations is also addressed at the provinces and territory level. Provincial and territorial liquor boards regularly assess alcoholic beverages to ensure that product listings adhere to federal and provincial/territorial regulatory requirements.

For more information, please consult Labelling Requirements for Alcoholic Beverages in CFIA’s Industry Labelling Tool and Health Canada’s document entitled Guidance on the Regulations respecting Flavoured Purified Alcohol.

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