Fireball whisky may return to Finland after safety checks

The Finnish alcohol monopoly retailer Alko says that it will consider letting the currently banned fireball cinnamon whisky liqueur back into its stores—but only after it’s been rigorously tested for the chemical propylene glycol, which is used in wiper fluid.

Image: Alko Oy

Fireball cinnamon whisky was pulled from the shelves of Finnish alcohol monopoly Alko this week after it was found to contain excessive levels of propylene glycol. The European Union does allow its use in foods and beverages, but only in strictly-limited amounts. Propylene glycol has a wide range of uses, including in de-icing compounds used in antifreeze.

Systembolaget, the state alcohol monopoly in neighbouring Sweden, was the first to raise concerns about the product, before Alko followed suit and removed it from stores.

Fireball whisky then released a statement saying that the problem was that the product mistakenly shipped was the North American, rather than European formula, which falls foul of regulations set by the EU.

The company says that the drink should be available in Finland, Sweden and Norway “within three weeks”, but that process will involve negotiating some Finnish bureaucracy and re-assuring Alko of the product's safety.

Safety checks on Fireball whisky

First Fireball has to ship the correct product to Alko for testing. The product must be re-tested and approved by the firm’s in-house alcohol control laboratory. When contacted by Yle News, Alko would not offer an estimate of how long that process might take.

"Alko has to be assured that the manufacturer is able to offer the Finnish market a product, which fulfills the EU regulations," said Alko's Category Manager Mika Kauppinen in a statement provided by Alko's press department. "After this the product itself has to be tested by Alcohol Control Laboratory (ACL) and approved by Alko’s quality control."

The company says that analysis takes around five days at Alko's facility and after that delivery of the product could take another two days.

The drink certainly generates strong feelings: the story on Alko’s decision to recall the product was the most-read in the history of Yle News, and has attracted more page views than any news story on the Yle website in any language. As of Wednesday afternoon, it had received more than 1.6 million hits.