Non Compliant Sambuca on Sale in the UK

10 December 2012

It has been brought to the attention of the Foods Standards Agency that non compliant ‘Sambuca’ is on retail sale in the UK. The reason that some ‘Sambuca’ products currently on sale in the UK are non compliant is because they are flavoured coloured varieties.
These products are non compliant with the Spirit Drinks Regulations 2008 No. 3206 and Regulation (EC) No 110/2008.
Regulation 110/2008 sets out  in Annex II the technical standards for spirit drinks being marketed in the EU. ‘Sambuca’ is defined in Annex II of these regulations.  As Regulation 110/2008 is directly applicable in all Member States,  each Member State must ensure that any spirit drink which is described, presented or labelled as ‘Sambuca’ must comply with standards described in Category 38 of Annex II.  
The following is an extract from the Regulations:-
(a) Sambuca is a colourless aniseed-flavoured liqueur:
(i) containing distillates of anise (Pimpinella anisum L.), star anise (Illicium verum L.) or other aromatic herbs,
(ii) with a minimum sugar content of 350 grams per litre expressed as invert sugar,
(iii) with a natural anethole content of not less than 1 gram and not more than 2 grams per litre.
(b) The minimum alcoholic strength by volume of sambuca shall be 38 %.
(c) The rules on flavouring substances and preparations for liqueurs laid down under category 32 apply to sambuca.
(d) The sales denomination may be supplemented by the term ‘liqueur’.
Therefore ‘Sambuca’ must be colourless and aniseed-flavoured.  Category 38(c) of Annex II provides that the rules on flavouring substances and preparations as laid down under category 32 apply to sambuca.  It is, therefore, the view that, provided that the product also complies with the category 32 rules (set out at paragraph (c)), ‘Sambuca’ can be flavoured with other flavourings in addition to aniseed.  However, the final product of ‘Sambuca’ must remain colourless.
The Agency  has been provided with information that there are a number of ‘Sambuca’ products on the market that are not colourless and thus in breach of statutory legislation. Examples of the products that are non compliant are ‘Luxardo Spa’ and ‘Antica Sambuca’ coloured ‘Sambuca’ products.
FSA will be contacting district councils in Northern Ireland to make them aware of these products and to ensure compliance with the Regulations. FSA will advise that, where appropriate, non-compliant products should be taken off the market and enforcement action taken.
If you have any of these products on sale in your area please remove them from sale.
Please call the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland on 02890 417739 if you require any clarification in relation to the above.