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Last Updated: Friday, 5 March, 2004, 17:53 GMT
Bangladesh outlaws malt 'beers'
Bangladesh malt beer
Crown: Probably the strongest 'malt' drink in the world
Bangladesh has banned two malt beverages that found a loophole in the Islamic country's bar on alcoholic drinks.

Police started confiscating cans of the drink on Thursday after the maker's licence was revoked.

The two brands, Crown and Hunter, have a maximum alcohol content of 4.8% and so were legally defined as malt beverages.

The ban follows a BBC News Online article two weeks ago.

The home ministry ordered Crown Beverages Limited to stop production and ordered police to seize the two brands from stores.

Nearly 50,000 cans, which bear a striking resemblance to famous international beer brands, were confiscated in just one night of raids and police said the action would continue.

Medical clause

Bangladesh's Board of Investment said Crown Beverages had breached its licensing conditions in marketing its products.

The brands, marketed as energy drinks, became an instant success among Bangladeshi youths as soon as they hit the shelves a few months ago, especially in the capital, Dhaka.

It is definitely not beer because it contains less than 5% alcohol
Shameem Islam,
MD Crown Beverages

Less impressed was international brewing giant Carlsberg, which said the drink was an apparent violation of the company's trade mark and brand.

Crown Beverages denies this, and says it found a legal loophole in the wording of Bangladesh's Drug Control Act 1990.

The act outlaws beer, but defines it as a malt and hops-based drink produced by a brewing process and containing at least 5% - and not more than 8.5% - alcohol.

The drafting was intended to ensure medicines containing alcohol would be exempt.

But while shopkeepers were struggling to meet the demand for the drinks, religious groups demanded action.

Mohammed Iqbal Hussain drinking Hunter malt drink
Islamic parties want to stop the increasing popularity of malt drinks
The coalition government's Islamist partners spoke publicly and in parliament against the production and marketing of the drinks.

The Board of Investment cancelled the company's licence on Thursday.

A board official said the company had failed to obtain a certificate from the government food and beverage watchdog, the Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institute.

Crown Beverages claimed the government action was illegal.

It said it was operating in accordance with the laws and that the two drinks were produced with hops, rice and malt.

Shameem Islam, the managing director of Crown Beverages, said in the original BBC story: "We make it in a similar way to beer, but it is definitely not beer because it contains less than 5% alcohol."

Bangladesh 'beer' tests alcohol ban
19 Feb 04  |  South Asia

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