If your vodka is made by bees, will you get really buzzed?

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      Ottawa has announced that it is seeking feedback for proposed changes to "modernize" the strict standards currently enforced for the production of vodka in Canada.

      This modernization would allow vodka to be produced from food products such as honey or fruit instead of distilled spirits derived solely from fermented cereal grains or potatoes.

      As it stands today, vodka must adhere to rules set out by the federal Food and Drug Regulations in order to be manufactured in one province and sold in another, as required by the Food and Drugs Act.

      Those regulations state: "Vodka shall be a potable alcoholic beverage obtained by the treatment of grain spirit or potato spirit with charcoal so as to render the product without distinctive character, aroma or taste." This means, essentially, that vodka shall be composed almost entirely of water and ethanol (also called ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol, which can be burned as a motor fuel).

      The rules have not been updated since 1959, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which enforces food-safety legislation, declared in a January 14 notice of intent on its website that the federal government intends to revise the vodka standard "to contribute to enhancing economic competitiveness and improve trade between provinces and territories".

      It states further: "There is interest in allowing the use of the term 'vodka' when it is produced from other agricultural material, such as fruit, dairy products, or honey."


      Because both the European Union and the U.S. have more relaxed rules regarding the materials used to manufacture vodka, the CFIA noted in its announcement that part of the modernization proposal is due to a desire to "bring the Canadian standard into greater alignment with the U.S. and EU approaches".

      The proposed changes will allow "any agricultural material" to be used as raw ingredients, not just potato or cereal grain. They would also "allow for the use of other materials or processes, beyond charcoal, to fully or partially (in the case of raw ingredients other than potato or grain) render the product without distinctive character, aroma, or taste"—in other words, the door would be opened for flavoured vodkas.

      Labelling would be required to name all ingredients other than grains or potatoes.

      It was not made clear in the proposal how vodka made from honey would differ from the ancient fermented-honey drink called mead. It was also not clarified which "dairy products" might be considered for use in the manufacture of vodka.

      If you have an opinion on the proposed changes, you can send your feedback to the CFIA prior to amendments getting final publication in the Canada Gazette, scheduled for this spring. The Canada Gazette is the official publication/newspaper for the federal government and is where all new laws and regulations are published.

      The deadline for comment is March 15, 2019.