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Caffeinated alcoholic beverages in Lebanon subject to regulation

  • Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages.

BEIRUT: The Health and Economy ministries have jointly issued a directive regulating all imported Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages. Decision 838-1, issued on June 22, stipulates that the amount of alcohol in CABs should not exceed 10.2 percent, while the amount of caffeine should not exceed 0.01 percent.

The new decision also prohibits any false advertising for the product and requires all CABs to have clearly written ingredients and warning signs on the container.

The new rules override previous rulings on the matter, including a Jan. 25 decision by Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil to ban the import of all drinks mixing alcohol and caffeine.

A business insider, speaking to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity, said that distributors of CABs had been unaware of Khalil’s ban, which led to the issue being reopened for discussion.

“The January decision was problematic since there was a misunderstanding of who should deal with the CABs,” said Dr. Ali Berro, director of the quality unit at the Economy and Trade Ministry.

“The Health Ministry took the initiative alone, while in fact the Economy Ministry is responsible for regulating alcoholic drinks and the Health Ministry is responsible for regulating energy drinks.”

Berro added that the harmful effects of CABs had pushed the ministries to take action.

“What is dangerous about these drinks is that the caffeine masks the effect of alcohol,” said Berro.

“We studied this case with the Health Ministry and we were able to come to a new decision based on research and international standards.”

CABs are banned in a number of European countries while tightly regulated in others.

In the United States, a number of states regulate the alcohol and caffeine content of CABs while others ban the drinks entirely.

According to Berro, by setting limits on the amount of alcohol and caffeine in CABs, ministries aim to “regulate the production, sale and marketing” of the beverages.

“By doing this we have minimized the effect to its lowest level possible,” said Berro, adding that at regulated levels [alcohol no higher than 10.2 percent, caffeine no higher than 0.01 percent], CABs are similar to cola in terms of their side effects.

In Berro’s view, allowing the distribution of regulated CABs is safer than the alternatives that might be sought by a night clubber or partygoer.

“What is more dangerous than the CABs is what is made in several pubs where bartenders mix different alcoholic drinks with energy drinks and no one knows what kind of alcohol he’s using or its level.”

On the issue of advertising, Berro said that the ministries’ decision to regulate advertising stems from inaccurate depictions in television commercials.

“TV ads showing exaggerations such as the CABs’ effect on sexual activity should be banned,” he said.

Since July 22, CABs that fail to meet the ministries’ new criteria have been banned from being imported into Lebanon.

As for CABs already on the market, the ministries have granted distributers a three-month grace period to sell their remaining stock, after which regulations will go into effect and penalties will be handed out.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 27, 2012, on page 4.
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