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Europol and Interpol have announced the seizure of 320 additional tonnes of "counterfeit and substandard food and beverages" following an operation that involved 83 countries, bringing the operation's seizure total to about 12,000 tonnes. "This year’s operational activities have found a new disturbing trend to address: the infiltration of low-quality products into the supply chain, a development possibly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic," the press release notes. The operation, which focused on dairy foods, olive oil, alcohol and horse meat, also identified counterfeit cereals, grains and derived products as well as coffee, tea and condiments.

The Swiss Federal Administrative Court has reportedly ruled that Jägermeister can use its logo, "a stag with a shining white cross between its antlers," on a variety of products in Switzerland because it is not offensive to religion. The Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property had argued for a restriction on the use of the logo, asserting that the "image was offensive to the religious leanings of some consumers," according to Swiss Info. The court reportedly disagreed, finding that consumers associate the logo with Jägermeister rather than the story of St. Hubert that inspired the logo.

The Portman Group, the U.K. alcohol industry's self-regulatory authority, has upheld a complaint against Trinchero Family Estates for its Ménage à Trois Midnight wine. Zenith Global brought a complaint arguing that the wine's name and marketing copy may breach the code by creating links between the product and sexual activity or sexual success. The panel agreed, finding that the text on the label—including "savour the pleasures of the dark"—did not dispel the sexual connotations of the Ménage à Trois name, which purportedly refers to the wine's blend of three varietals. “In this case, the Panel urged the producer to avoid linking the sexual meaning of the name to the product and remove the text description on the bottle which did this," the panel's chair commented in a press release. "The Panel’s decision is a reminder to all producers that care must be taken when marketing a product to ensure that…

A Florida federal court has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Bacardi U.S.A.'s Bombay Sapphire contains a botanical classified as an adulterant in the state. Marrache v. Bacardi U.S.A., No. 19-23856 (S.D. Fla., entered January 28, 2020). "Numerous class actions have greatly benefited society, such as Brown v. Board of Education, In re Exxon Valdez, and In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation," the court's decision began. "This is not one of those class actions." The plaintiff "does not allege that the bottle of gin he bought containing grains of paradise caused him any health issues or other harm," the court noted. "He instead alleges that the product was 'worthless' because it was adulterated with grains of paradise." The court found that the 1868 Florida law prohibiting grains of paradise in alcohol was preempted by federal regulations finding that the botanical is generally regarded as safe. The plaintiff argued that the…

The French government has reportedly abandoned a campaign suggesting French people abstain from drinking alcohol during the month of January following pressure from wine producers. The plan was apparently inspired by a promotion launched by a U.K. advocacy group in 2013 that encourages alcohol abstinence during January and mindful alcohol consumption in the months that follow. The French health minister reportedly confirmed that discussion for a Dry January campaign would not be held until a ministerial health prevention committee meeting in February 2020.

The Portman Group, a U.K. alcohol industry self-regulatory group, has upheld a complaint against the Bearded Brewery for the name of its high-alcohol cider, Suicyder. A member of the public complained about the beverage name's reference to suicide, calling Suicyder "clearly irresponsible" because it purportedly targets young men—"the group at highest risk of suicide"—and uses associated iconography, such as the tagline "juice from the noose." The company asserted that the "name of the cider was based on a wordplay with the intention being to indicate the strength of the alcohol content" and explained that the tagline was a reference to the founders' previous work with the Forestry Commission that required them to use a noose to dismantle unsafe trees. The panel was unpersuaded by tagline explanation, noting that "a consumer would have to understand this inside knowledge to displace the main connotation portrayed by the product name and imagery on…

The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against The Cornish Rum Co. against its ads marketing Dead Man's Fingers Hemp Rum. The complainant asserted that two Instagram posts and an ad in a trade magazine used language linking the hemp-infused rum to cannabis, including "Delicious mixed with coke or ginger ale—serve chilled, man. Coming to a joint near you." Another Instagram post featured an image of an outdoor ad reading "Warning: Our Hemp Rum May Cause the Munchies" along with "an image of a skull which was smoking and wearing a hat with a cannabis leaf print." The trade magazine ad included the text "Dealers Wanted." ASA dismissed the portion of the complaint arguing that the ad was intended to appeal to an audience under 18, finding that the images "were not references associated with youth culture and that overall the colours and imagery used gave each…

A D.C. court has dismissed Bellion Spirits LLC's lawsuit aiming to compel the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to permit the company to market its products as containing "NTX, a proprietary blend of ingredients that they contend mitigates alcohol's damage to DNA." Bellion Spirits LLC v. United States, No. 17-2538 (D.D.C., entered August 1, 2019). TTB denied Bellion's application to make the health claims because it purportedly found inadequate substantiation after consulting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Bellion filed suit, arguing that TTB could not work with FDA without express statutory authority. The court disagreed, finding that TTB has exclusive regulatory authority to make final decisions on alcohol, but nothing prohibits the agencies from consulting with each other. The court also dismissed Bellion's First Amendment argument, which maintained that its claims about NTX are true; the court noted that it must be deferential to…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Bacardi U.S.A. Inc.'s Bombay Sapphire is made with grains of paradise, amounting to adulteration under Florida law. Marrache v. Bacardi U.S.A. Inc., Filing No. 93932678 (Fla. Cir. Ct., 11th Jud. Cir., filed August 9, 2019). The complaint cites a Florida statute deeming the inclusion of grains of paradise—along with several other substances described as "poisonous or injurious to health," including opium, capsicum, laurel water and cochineal—in any liquor intended for consumption to be adulterated, amounting to a felony of the third degree. The plaintiff notes that the Bombay Sapphire bottle features an etching of 10 botanicals, including grains of paradise—which "has been used in other parts of the world for medicinal purposes including, without limitation, to treat impotence and to stimulate miscarriages when a pregnancy was unwanted."

The Scotch Whisky Association has filed a lawsuit alleging that the name of Virginia Distillery Co.'s Virginia-Highland Whisky misleads consumers into believing the alcohol beverage is a product of Scotland. Scotch Whisky Ass'n v. Va. Distillery Co., No. 19-1264 (D. Del., filed July 8, 2019). The complaint asserts the Virginia Distillery Co. product is described as "Whisky from Scotland married with Virginia Whisky," allegedly violating federal regulations prohibiting the use of "words commonly associated with Scotland to designate any product not wholly produced in Scotland," including "Highland" and "Highlands." The association seeks an injunction, a recall, fees and costs for allegations of false advertising, unfair competition and deceptive trade practices.

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