July 1, 2018 – Jersey City, New Jersey, USA

The International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD), issued a report ‘Alcohol in the Shadow Economy’ in June 2018. IARD is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to addressing harmful drinking and promoting responsible drinking. The Washington, DC based organization is supported by member companies from the alcohol industry. The 15 page report aggregated news and data worldwide to raise awareness for unregulated alcohol.

Alcohol in the Shadow Economy report on Illicit Alcohol
Report on Illicit Alcohol by the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) based in Washington, DC

On pages 4 and 5 the report featured a world map with percentages of illicit alcohol and the dollar amount of fiscal loss. The full report is available by clicking the image of the report. The cornerstone was that economic factors influence illicit alcohol presence.

Illicit alcohol accounts for a sizeable proportion
of total alcohol, particularly in low- and middle income
countries. – IARD Report

Absent from the data was the United States and Canada. Alcohol in the Shadow Economy focused on problems in developing country. Diageo which is the world’s largest producer of spirits, a key producer of beer, as well as a sponsor of IARD, featured the following points on their news release which is available on the Diageo news website:

  • Up to one in every two drinks is illicit in some parts of the world: much higher than previous global estimates
  • The majority of alcohol consumed  in five out of seven African countries covered is illict
  • Illicit alcohol is unregulated, untaxed, and potentially toxic
  • Illicit alcohol represents a combined USD $1.8 billion fiscal loss across just 18 countries. The loss to Colombia alone in 2015 was USD $406million; in Mozambique, the loss in 2014 was USD $285 million
  • Bringing unregulated alcohol production into the regulated sector and tackling illicit alcohol is essential in supporting the WHO’s whole-of-society response to the harmful use of alcohol

The report does achieve a critical goal which is to raise awareness for counterfeited, fake and illicit alcohol. However, by not including the USA and Canada the report is misleading.

A contributor for SafeProof.org said “Ignoring the hundreds of adjudicated alcohol violations from state alcohol enforcement agencies domestically is misleading. It leads one to believe that the USA and Canada are in a false protected bubble. The United States problems with refilling and adulterated liquor is undeniable with credible tips being called and sent to the SafeProof.org national tip lines daily.”

A search of SafeProof.org violation map shows the extent of the the violations. Bars, clubs, restaurants, country clubs, catering halls, hotels, casinos, and retail locations throughout the USA have been cited and fined for illicit alcohol practices. Due to access to data, most go under the radar.

Worldwide report from IARD on #illicitAlcohol raises alarm but misses on USA and Canada Click to Tweet

In SafeProof.org’s home state of New Jersey a comprehensive investigation code named Operation Swill lead to numerous refilling violations ranging from TGI Fridays chains to fine dinning restaurants. This investigation also resulted in well rated establishments being cited for serving counterfeit alcohol made with rubbing alcohol.

The United States and Canada are not immune to the problems of illicit alcohol.The United States and Canada use fragmented enforcement with Federal, Provincial, State, and Local agencies assigned enforce various aspects of alcohol compliance. This leads to a reporting system that lacks transparent publication. A reporter has to file multiple Freedom of Information Requests across a variety of enforcement agencies to obtain information that should be in the public domain.

As noted in the report ‘Alcohol in the Shadow Economy’, illicit alcohol is a worldwide epidemic. There is no reason to believe that the United States and Canada are immune from the counterfeiters who profit from illegal alcohol distillation and distribution. The profits are massive in the counterfeit alcohol trade as is the  alcohol consumer bases of the USA and Canada.

The mission of SafeProof.org is to raise awareness for Fake or Counterfeit alcohol and to keep liquor safe.  Search liquor enforcement using our map to keep you and your drinks safe. Report any illicit alcohol activity to us using our secure form or by calling (833) SAFE-TIP To get the latest Alcohol Alerts and violation updates in your area Sign-up for SafeProof.org emails and follow us on Twitter @SafeProofAlert also on Instagram @SafeProof