Beer: it's no longer food

Moscow opts to regulate the drink as alcohol

The state Duma is taking beer to task in Russia. In the past, the beverage was regulated by a 2005 law that classified it as a foodstuff. As such, its distribution did not require state licensing, and it could be advertised at night on TV and sold 24 hours a day in kiosks and supermarkets. Last week, however, Moscow almost unanimously adopted a bill that recognizes beer as alcohol. Beginning July 1, there will be new regulations for the drink that include restricted nighttime sales, and, like vodka, making it illegal to sell at street kiosks. The size of beer bottles is also set to decrease from 500 ml to 300 ml.

The new legislation is part of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s campaign to curb alcoholism and underage drinking in the country (another proposed bill is a nationwide ban on alcohol sales from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m.). Russians are among the highest imbibers in the world: last month, a report released by the World Health Organization found that Russians drink an average of 15.7 litres of alcohol a year, compared to the world average of 6.3 litres. One in five Russian male deaths is caused by alcohol. And yet, the new beer legislation will only apply to suds stronger than five per cent—just a modest proportion of beer sales—leading some to criticize the legislation as too soft.

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