Irish Food Safety and HSE investigations target craft beers

It's been a tough week for Ireland's craft brewers...

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and Health Service Executive (HSE) have revealed that they are carrying out a number of investigations relating to craft beers.

This comes one week after it was confirmed that Heineken Ireland products have been mis-labelled as craft beers in a number of outlets around the country.

A statement issued to Newstalk reads, "The FSAI, together with the HSE, is investigating complaints in relation to a number of craft beers. As this investigation is ongoing, we are not in a position to comment further at this time."

The HSE issued an almost incidental statement confirming that it is carrying out investigations focused on craft beers.

This was a response to a query asking if mis-labeling beers would violate Irish or European food labeling rules - although there is no indication that this is the subject of the FSAI/HSE investigation.

Pexels

Last week, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) told Newstalk it was aware of both the Heineken mis-labeling and of the fact Heineken is seeking to address the matter by means of an external investigation.

"At this time, the CCPC does not have a formal investigation open, but will continue to monitor the issue," its statement added.

The hashtag #FakeCraft has appeared across social media raising concerns about suspect brews found around the country.

One highlighted beverage was Pana Cork Lager - a new beer which recently appeared in bars in Cork.

The drink is from C&C's brewery in Clonmel, it describes it as being "made from Irish ingredients and hand batch brewed in a small brewery at C&C's manufacturing site in Clonmel."

It added that it is "based on the very successful Clonmel 1650 recipe." This comes after social media users and The Sunday Times suggested that Pana is in fact Clonmel 1650 under a different guise - although the company has clarified that this is not the case.

"Pana is only to be marketed and sold in Cork; and, only in the on trade as a standard lager (it’s not a craft lager) ... Our lager is not involved either in misrepresentation or passing off as something it is not," the statement continued.

Newstalk has learned that some local pubs marketed the drink as a 'craft' product in error.

Logos

In reaction to the coverage of Ireland's craft beer industry Beer Ireland, an association which represents more than 30 microbreweries, is pushing forward with the use of a Beer Ireland logo to identify craft beers.

Beer Ireland PRO Gerald Costello said that the fightback against falsely labelled drinks has been led by complaints by consumers, "It's heartening that they want our genuine product, and consumers need to know that's what they're getting, not something dressed up as it," he told Newstalk.com.

Beer Ireland logo design

Meanwhile, Grainne Walsh, PRO of the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland and co-founder of Metalman Brewing, joined Breakfast Business and outlined her organisation's intention to also "introduce a logo which will represent Irish microbrewed beer."

"The idea being that Irish microbrewers by definition – as Customs and Excise define microbrewing – can place this logo on their packaging which will demonstrate to consumers when they're choosing brews with this logo that the brew is made in a physical microbrewery in Ireland and packaged on the island of Ireland with no link to any large multinational brewers," she continued.

Beer Ireland told Newstalk that there has been an increase in interest in their association from brewers following the Heineken craft scandal.

Since the news broke, there has also been open communication between it and the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland group, and it is possible that they will pool resources to make sure that Irish micro-brews are easy for customers to identify.