Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Afro Leo

Uncorked: Bogus booze on the rise and what’s being done…

The Relief Market in Nigeria, central Africa, is a hive of activity as vendors cook, clean and arrange their produce which ranges form dried fish to fresh herbs. Shoppers can also purchase their favourite tipple, but beware- the brandy in these stalls may not be the real thing. 

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control in Nigeria, NAFDAC, arrested nine suspects connected with alleged fake wine and beverage at the Relief Market in Onitsha, Nigeria last week.

The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the arrest of five males and four females, followed a “special raid and enforcement operation of the Federal Government’s ban on imported fruit juices”.

NAFDAC’s head of investigation, Kingsley Ejiofor, explained that those arrested in the Nigeria operation were involved in the bottling of counterfeit and dangerous drinks.

We came here for a special assignment to mop up all counterfeit and prohibited products which include imported fruit juices, food, drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, detergent and bottled water,” said Ejiofor.

He said they uncovered the illegal manufacture of dangerous chemicals being bottled with popular brand names.

According to Ejiofor said that popular brands of beverages like Hennessey, 501, Johnny Walker, Red Label whisky, Best Marula fruit cream, Pure heaven, Amarula, Baron De Vals, Eva and J&W, among others were being faked.

But the incidence of fake spirits and especially, fake wine, is global and becoming an increasing problem. Italy have become particularly adept at uncovering wine scams created to defraud both merchants and consumers.

In February 2016, Reuters reported that the gendarmerie confiscated 9200 bottles of Prosecco and a machine used to make the wrappers. The bust of mock bubbly was worth 350 000 euros on the street. Sham champagne has also received its fair share of publicity, resulting in strict IP laws governing the use of the term “champagne”.

Kate Jonker, general manager at the Cape Wine Makers Guild told Afro-IP that they now insist on holograms on the labels of all wine they handle.

For about two years now, we have been using holograms to identify the auction wines. The farmers also only print enough labels for their bottles in order to keep it tight and strict,” she says.

As an agent that sells and markets on behalf of their 47 members, the Guild represents wine-makers that have been producing out-standing wine for at least 5 years and each year new members are considered for membership.

Two years ago the wine world was shocked at the arrest of respected connoiseur, Rudy Kurniawan who was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being exposed for millions of dollars worth of wine fraud.

He created the impressive collection using empty bottles and refilling them with a similar product and re-corking. Over 500 bottles of his “fake” wine were destroyed after he was imprisoned.

Bloomberg reported recently that new ways of bottling wine are being used to combat potential fraud, which often involves replicating labels or using old bottles.

These innovative techniques, allow each bottle a unique fingerprint that can be scanned for verification. The “bubble tag” is a sticker that is placed over the cork and the glass with a random bubble design. Many also emboss the base of their bottles with the wine farm name to further authenticate the contents.

The DrinksBusiness.com reported in November 2014 that French newspaper Sud Ouest estimated that 20% of global wine sales were fake wines- predominantly linked to the Bordeaux and Burgundy regions in France.

If the specialists and connoiseurs can’t tell the difference between an authentic and a fake wine- how is the man on the street supposed to know?” says Jonker. She suggests only buying wine from authorized dealers or trusted suppliers, or straight from the wine farm itself.

Jonker also warns that investors should be aware of how wine has been stored before they buy it.

A site dedicated to the elimination of international wine counterfeiting, www.winefraud.com, holds courses for interested parties who want to learn more about counteracting the problem. They focus on labels, printing, corks, bottling glass and even the glue used to affix labels.

Ejiofor warned the public after the Nigerian arrest to “destroy cups, plastics or bottles after use because not doing so encourages these illegal producers. Retailers and consumers should also issue and collect receipts for every product purchased to enable tracking,” he said.

Afro Leo suggests that wine producers should also combat the problem using traditional IP techniques. An advanced trade mark and (where possible, copyright) filing program should be undertaken. This may include the labels and shapes of the bottles, as well as the word marks including those in the services classes. Regional protection for geographical indicators should be considered too and filings should be made at customs to enable swift enforcement. These programs should include export, defensive and source markets for products. There have been stories of fake vineyards in China, for example.
It's a significant problem for Africa whose wine regions rank amongst the best in the world.

Afro Leo

Afro Leo

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