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New laws to regulate South African beer and the drinking age – here are the changes you need to know about

| Legislation

The Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources has adopted the Liquor Products Amendment Bill and has confirmed that it will soon come into law.

In a statement released on Tuesday (12 June), the committee explained that the bill seeks to amend the current Liquor Products Act to broaden its scope of regulation.

One of the key changes will be the regulation of beer, contemporary beer, traditional African beer and other fermented beverages which had previously been exposed to a loophole which allowed for any product labelled as ‘beer’ or ‘ale’ to be manufactured and sold in the country.

While the committee raised concerns about the practicality of regulating the production of traditional African beer and other fermented beverages, chairperson of the committee, Olifile Sefako, said the bill has good intentions and should not be misconstrued in relation to suppressing traditional practices or suffocating entrepreneurship.

The second major change being introduced by the bill is a reduction of the amount of alcohol not classified as liquor products – meaning that the minimum alcohol content in beverages will now be set to 0.5%, as opposed to the current 1.0%.

Other changes include new regulations and compulsory registration for bottlers, plans to make it easier for new players to enter the market and obtain licenses, and restrictions on drinks advertising that they contain ‘fresh juice’.

Drinking age

Following a long consultation period, parliament confirmed that the Liquor Amendment Bill was finally heading towards Cabinet in March.

The bill proposes banning the supply of liquor and methylated spirits to persons under the age of 21 – up from 18 currently. This includes any and all alcoholic advertisements which are aimed at people under the age of 21.

It also calls for the prohibition of  the manufacturing, distribution or retail sale of liquor in both rural and urban communities, on any location that is less than 500 metres away from schools, place of worship, recreational facilities, rehabilitation or treatment centres, residential areas, public institutions and other like amenities.

The final major change that the Bill plans to introduce is an extension of liability for people selling alcohol in the country. This means that manufacturers and suppliers of alcohol to illegal or unlicensed outlets will effectively be liable to all damages caused by their unlawful distribution.

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