Bacardi U.S., Inc. is facing a class action lawsuit in Florida due the use of grains of paradise in Bombay Sapphire® Gin.  In Uri Marrache v. Bacardi USA, Inc., et al., Case No. 2019-023668-CA-01 (Miami-Dade Cir. Ct. Aug. 9, 2019), the plaintiff alleges that the use of grains of paradise violates a Florida state law preventing the adulteration of liquor with certain ingredients resulting in a violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTP).

Grains of paradise, Aframonmum melgueta, are the seeds of an African plant with flavors reminiscent of cardamom and coriander.  Under a law dating from the Prohibition era, Florida considers the use of a variety of botanicals, including grains of paradise, an adulterant when used in liquor.  Other prohibited ingredients included in the Florida statute 562.455 are cocculus indicus, vitriol, opium, alum, capsicum, copperas, laurel water, logwood, brazil wood, cochineal and sugar of lead.

Prior to sale in the U.S., producers and importers are required to submit their formulas for certain distilled spirits, like gin, for review and approval by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).  The formulas are considered trade secrets and not subject to disclosure under a Freedom of Information Act Request. To obtain formula approval from TTB, the botanicals and the other components in the distilled spirit must be permitted ingredients. TTB relies on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to generate a list of GRAS ingredients, those “generally recognized as safe” (sometimes in limited quantities).  Grains of paradise are on the FDA’s GRAS list (See 21 C.F.R. § 182.10).

In the suit, the plaintiff alleges that Bacardi’s “adulteration” of Bombay Sapphire with grains of paradise  and its subsequent sale in Florida is “unconscionable,” and constitutes a per se violation of FDUTPA.  The plaintiff class is seeking monetary relief in the form of funds acquired by Bacardi from the sale of the alleged “adulterated” product.