Mexico to curb "toxic" tequila

Mexico´s Tequila Regulatory Council (TRC) is working to step up operatives to curb a rising trade of fake and "toxic" blends after consumer watchdog Profeco this week announced 40% of the country’s alcohol is sold in an "adulterated" state.

"We have modified Jalisco’s [home of the industry] penal code so that falsifying tequila is considered a crime punishable by jail or a fine," the councils technical manager Floriberto Miguel Cruz told Drinks International.

"We are working so that this initiative is spread to the entire Mexican state to end this activity."

Apart from this effort, the TRC is stepping up confiscation operatives to two a month from a much lower frequency in the past.

The CRT is working with Profeco, other consumer lobby Cofepris, the Mexican Institute of Intellectual Property, custom officials and the police to carry out the raids they hope will seize much of the adulterated tequila sold in Mexico.

Cruz said: "We are going to all commercial venues to find any falsified goods. Whoever is found with the merchandise will be taken to police and if the judge determines it, jailed."

Tequila is Mexico’s best-selling spirit before rum and brandy, Cruz noted. He added most fake tequila contains sugar-cane alcohol added with caramel and in some cases even coca cola.

It does not carry the TRC’s authenticity stamp (which 155 Mexican brands boast) which means the tequila was made 100% from the Jalisco agave plant fields that give it its original denomination.

Cruz added: "The risk is that these adulterated blends can cause heavy health problems. In some cases, illegal producers add methanol alcohol instead of ethanol alcohol to the bottle, and as you know, methanol alcohol is a toxic industrial alcohol."

Underscoring how toxic adulterated spirits can be, 103 people in Ecuador where last month taken to hospital for drinking adulterated alcohol.

Cruz said: "This is the last thing we want to happen in Mexico which is why we are working hard to end the problem"

Profeco appears to be working even harder. In a statement, it said it will seek as much as 20-30 years of prison for those found falsifying alcoholic beverages. 

Health risks apart, ending the fakes trade is also obviously in the best interest of tequila manufacturers. The industry moves sales of $750m a year and is also the best-selling Mexican drink in the world.