FORMER Formula 1 racing champion Jody Scheckter has hit out at an alcohol watchdog after it wrote to independent retailers which continue to stock his beer.
Mr Scheckter has been involved in a legal battle with Portman Group because of the labelling on his lager and ale. The group responded to a single complaint that the labels on the bottles, which feature ‘Mr Laverstoke’ drawn by Mr Scheckter’s son when he was young, could appeal to children.
The watchdog issued a bulletin to retailers, asking them not to stock the Laverstoke Park Farm ale and lager in its current packaging, from May 17 last year.
Mr Scheckter had protested about the original bulletin issued in December 2012, but lost a High Court battle to have it removed.
Having spent £30,000 on legal fees, Mr Scheckter said last year that he had given up the fight, and predicted the decision would “probably put our beer out of business.”
Retailers which are signatories of Portman Group’s code were forced to cease selling Laverstoke’s beer last year, and this included Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
But Mr Scheckter is now criticising Portman Group again, after it sent what he describes as “threatening letters” to two small independent retailers, which are not under the authority of the body, to remove Laverstoke’s beer from their website, despite having sold it for years.
The letter, sent by Henry Ashworth, chief executive of Portman Group, said Portman Group was “disappointed” to see the drinks still being sold.
He added: “We need to ask for your assurance that the products will be withdrawn from the market and not be sold again until the producer has amended the packaging.”
Mr Scheckter said: “It is simply unbelievable to me that once again I find my business under this vindictive attack of the Portman Group. Not content with leading me to lose £230,000 from the de-listing in the multiples, and despite my attempts to work with the group, this unregulated body of ‘authority’ is now threatening the little business I have left for the farm’s beer.
“It is unjustifiable that this body, which has no legal standing, should threaten my business any further.”
A statement from Portman Group said: “We contact retailers who continue to stock products that have breached the code as part of our routine compliance monitoring.”