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Got Milk? Spiked Ice Cream Spooks Nordic Consumers

© AFP 2023 / ANA AREVALOWomen eat ice creams
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For decades, Sweden has prided itself on its austere alcohol policy, which supposedly had a strong deterring effect. Today, the countrywide sale of ice cream laced with liquor, due to a loophole in the alcohol law, risks to thwart the Swedish government's perennial efforts to keep fellow Swedes from drinking.

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In recent days, the Swedish Consumer Agency has come under fire from aggressive shoppers following nationwide advertising campaign for liquor-flavored ice cream. The ice cream is not counted as a drink and is therefore not covered by the country's draconian alcohol law.

"The legislation is not adapted to the fact that alcohol can be served in forms other than as a beverage. We certainly see it as a problem, because marketing may hit children and young people," Kristina Wallin, a lawyer at the Swedish Consumer Agency, told Swedish public broadcaster SVT, citing deficiencies in the current Alcohol Act.

"N1ce," the ice cream in question, was first launched last year and has sold 1.5 million popcicles in Sweden alone. The spiked popsicles contain five percent alcohol and come in flavors like mojito, margarita, piña colada and daiquiri. According to the manufacturing company, the alcohol is only included "for the sake of taste." The ice cream is classified as a foodstuff and does not require any special permits. The buyer, however, shall be aged 18 and over and be able to identify themselves.

Фото опубликовано N1CE Company (@n1cecompany) Июн 5 2016 в 1:02 PDT

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Under current Swedish legislation, the alcoholic ice cream may, unlike liquid liquors, be sold in grocery stores. Also, Sweden's largest digital food store mathem.se has after long deliberations included the ice cream in its catalogue. The company's president Thomas Kull argued that no laws or regulations have been broken.

"I see this as a storm in a teacup. Would someone want to get drunk, there are both cheaper and easier ways," Thomas Kull said.

The Public Health Agency believes that the product type can be re-defined as an "alcoholic substance" in order to be banned from the stores. However, this may entail bureaucratic difficulties, as this demands amendments in the Alcohol Act, which may only be done by the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Historically, Sweden has been part of the so-called "vodka belt," which embraces Scandinavia, the Baltic states, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. To battle social and health problems, caused by alcohol, the Swedish government has maintained a monopoly on liquor sales since 1905, with one of Europe's highest prices to fence off alcohol abuse.

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Following Sweden's EU membership in 1995, net alcohol consumption increased, as the government gradually lost its most important alcohol policy instruments, such as price and the availability. Correspondingly, alcohol has become cheaper relative to income and other goods. Consumption has therefore increased from 8 liters in 1996 to 9.9 liters in 2013.

Similar discussions on the liquor-laced ice cream have been triggered in Denmark, which, unlike Sweden, retains a much more lax alcohol policy and remains a popular destination for "booze cruises" by inhabitants in southern Sweden.

Remarkably, this is not the first time liquor-laced ice cream has stirred a debate in the Nordic countries. Over a decade ago, ice cream called "Vodka-Goblin" that combined soda and alcohol was pulled from the shelves across Scandinavia.

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