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Eurocare: Creating alcohol labelling chaos

spiritsEUROPE, the trade association representing the producers of spirits in Europe, has unveiled a so-called new one-stop-shop webportal that provides consumers with easy access to detailed information on all spirit drinks legally sold in the EU.

Sorry, this is not good enough.

Please go online and check how long it takes you to find the relevant information regarding your favourite drink. The www.responsibledrinking.eu website is misleading to the true nature of the spirit drinks and creates more chaos around the issue of labelling.

This industry once again proved it can’t deliver and the European Commission should not accept this charade.

If labelling is provided only on a website, it needs to be an independent website not run by the alcohol industry. Would we allow Volkswagen to have a European Commission endorsed website telling people how to use diesel cars responsibly?

The current website provides health related information (in the section on moderation) as when to drink and how. Conveniently, spirits industry does not mention that drinking alcohol can lead to more than 200 diseases, including cancer and as stated in European Code against Cancer – If you drink alcohol of any type, limit your intake. Not drinking alcohol is better for cancer prevention.

Spirits should not be disguising itself as a health information source, this is the remit of public health institutions and authorities.

In addition, provision of information online could lead to more targeted marketing as the companies would know better which products we buy and try to seduce us to buy more. Not to even mention the problem with targeted marketing to youngsters if they scan a QR code of a specific product. On-line labelling for the alcohol products has a lot of unintended consequences. Public authorities should reject it.

Historical background

In 2011 the European institutions passed Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 that requires food and soft drinks, including fruit juice and milk, to label nutritional information and ingredients. However, after heated debates alcoholic beverages were exempted from this obligation.

In March 2017, the European Commission published a report clearly stating that no objective grounds were identified which would justify the absence of information on ingredients and nutritional information on alcoholic beverages.

The European Commission gave the alcohol producers one year to deliver a self-regulatory proposal that would cover the entire sector of alcoholic beverages. In March 2018 industry produced a self-regulatory proposal.

Public health and consumer organisations pointed out the flaws of the system on numerous occasions.

Industry failed to produce a uniform approach for the whole sector, instead presenting sector specific annexes. Additionally, the proposal leaves it up to the food business operators responsible for the food information to decide how to display the information.

Discrepancies in implementation and interpretation of the EU Reg 1169/2011 could create a mosaic of styles and forms instead of following the already existing framework (set out in EU Reg 1169/2011) to which consumers are accustomed to.

The brewing sector reports that three quarters of beers will be labelling ingredients and half will be labelling energy per 100ml by the end of this year.

Unfortunately, the spirits and wine industries want to provide information online, in form of weblinks, QR codes, bar codes etc. As stated in the European Commission’s report on alcohol labels from 2017, the majority of consumers “never or rarely” use off-label information sources to access information on nutrition values and ingredients of alcoholic beverages. According to the Digital Economy and Society Index (2017) 44% of Europeans (169 million) between 16 and 74 years do not have basic digital skills. ‘Off-label’ information would exclude millions of Europeans of their right to know what they consume.

Source: Eurocare