March 26, 2018 – Jalisco, Mexico
The Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT) known in English as the Tequila Regulatory Council has issued a warning that the Tequila industry is riddled with corruption and bribery. The CRT was established in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico in 1994 as the ONLY organization to certify Tequila conformity to the Mexican Official Standard of Tequila (NOM-006- SCFI-1994). In 1995 it was accredited as the official verification entity for Tequila.
The Board of the CRT is comprised of members from the four groups who are involved in the Tequila Industry. The Board of the CRT is composed of Tequila Producers, Agave Producers, Bottlers and Marketers and Government Agencies, which include the Secretary of Economy, the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property, the Federal Consumer Protection Agency, the Secretary of Health and the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The four main objectives of the CRT are:
- To ensure the compliance with the Official Standard of Tequila by all the producers, bottlers and marketers though verification and certification procedures;
- To guarantee the purity of Tequila to the consumer;
- To safeguard the appellation of origin in Mexico and throughout the world; and,
- To provide accurate and timely information to the Agave-Tequila supply chain
Tequila can only be labelled as such if it is made from agave azul (agave tequilana weber blue variety), commonly referred to as blue agave, which was grown in the Officially Demarcated Tequila Region. This region where blue agave finds its ideal climate and soil encompasses the entire State of Jalisco, and certain municipalities contained in the States of Nayarit, Tamaulipas, Michoacan and Guanajuato, which meet the growing specifications of agave azul.
With agave azul as the raw product, the finished product must be made in a specific manner to be classified as Tequila. Only ripe blue agave heads that are hydrolyzed or cooked, fermented with yeast, and may be enriched with sugar at a ratio not to exceed 49%. Subsequent mixing of the finished product is not allowed. Real Tequila is clear, aged Tequila may attain a yellowish, golden or caramel color from the aging barrels.
A strict set of standards in every aspect of the production, bottling, and exporting of Tequila is defined by the CRT. Only brands that adhere to these standards are officially Tequila. Over the years many brands that are made from other agave plants, mixed with other agave plants, grain alcohol, or mixing other enhancing liquors have been sold as Tequila. The CRT warns consumers to be aware of specific label markings to ensure that they are drinking authentic Tequila, made from the agave azul plant grown in the designated, registered Appellation of Origin.
The label of Authentic Tequila Certified by Consejo Regulador del Tequila should contain:
- 100% de Agave
- The word Tequila
- Producers name and address
- Bottlers name and address
- Alcohol Percentage in Volume from 35% to 55%
- MADE IN MEXICO in capital letters
- Official NOM (Mexican Official Standard) password and authorized product number
These labelling tips will help consumers distinguish between “Authentic Tequila” and those of that are made from other agave or mixed with cane alcohol and a small percentage of tequila. These tips will not protect Tequila drinkers from worldwide Tequila Counterfeiters who are zeroing in on Tequila because of its high retail selling price.
Tequila producers and the CRT are in a battle with fake Tequila makers worldwide from moonshiners in Mexican neighborhoods to factories in Europe mixing methanol with sugary syrups, to Africans distilling fake brews from indigenous agave species. There are over 30 agave plant species that can be used to simulate Tequila. Mezcal, an authentic alcoholic beverage popularized in Mexico is also made from agave plants, however it is not made from agave azul, but rather from agave Americano, agave verde or agave verde or maguey de la Sierra.
As part of a publicity campaign, the leadership of the CRT is speaking out about, lax regulations, bribery and government corruption that is diluting their oversight of this Mexican propriety beverage protected by Appellation of Origin and Trade agreements.
The battle is not only with fake Tequila which is surfacing around the world, it is a domestic problem as well. “There’s a huge over-tolerance on the part of the authorities in an environment plagued with impunity and illegal sales . . . with enormous consequences for the health [of consumers],” said public health specialist Arturo Cervantes Trejo. While CRT general manager Ramón González Figueroa called the regulation of tequila “lax” and expressed concern over the sale of “fake tequila” in large grocery stores. Recent surveys of 12 -17-year-old youths have sounded the alarms as respondents said they purchased low price Tequila in local grocery stores.
The CRT has identified several brands it deems fake, including Rancho Escondido, El Mecatito, Mujeriego, El Compadr and more. The CRT is trying to raise awareness and push for more local enforcement and vigilance by local police and government officials. “We must raise awareness because the availability of alcoholic drinks is ever increasing. For this reason, we must reinforce the monitoring in at points of sale . . . and keep illegal products from being sold, consumed and exported,” said Rodolfo González González.
On March 23, 2018, 43,000 liters of fake Tequila was destroyed in Zapopan, Jalisco, the center of the Authentic Tequila industry. In August of 2017, stories of raids at Mexican Resorts that yielded 30,000 gallons of fake booze exemplify the extent of the domestic counterfeit alcohol trade. If the problem were only domestic, pressure from the CRT may have some impact. However, the problem of fake Tequila is International. In December of 2015, Germany intercepted and destroyed 24,700 liters of fake Tequila on a tip from the Mexican Consulate.
The CRT admission that the Tequila industry, its certification and production authentication process may be rifled with bribes and corruption add to the story of Tequila’s International surge in volume. The Investigative Team at SafeProof.org has been stalled on an article trying to reconcile the discrepancy between the number of known blue agave plants and the amount of Tequila that is exported by Mexico. The admission of bribery and corruption by the CRT, might just be the missing piece of the equation.
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