The industry’s proposal on alcohol labelling has some legal issues and does not satisfy the need to fully inform EU consumers, a European Commission spokesperson told EURACTIV.com, raising fresh doubt as to how and when labelling will eventually be regulated.
“The Commissioner is not satisfied with the proposal because it is not consistent and does not address some issues related to information for consumers: consumers should be fully informed. Our lawyers’ assessment confirms that there are some legal issues with the proposal,” the EU official said.
“We have a regulation on consumers’ information and it requires to present full information to consumers. Requirements that consumers should be informed are in place,” the EU spokesperson added.
Asked if this Commission will have the time to deal with the issue before the end of its mandate, the EU official said there was no precise timetable for the future developments.
Andriukaitis: A ‘reasonable’ solution
In response to a letter sent to several Commissioners by sixteen MEPs before the summer break, Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis expressed his disappointment with the industry’s proposal and called for a “reasonable” solution.
“I had given one year to the industry to present a self-regulatory proposal, but I must admit that this offer does not meet my initial expectations,” he emphasised.
In March, the alcohol industry came up with a much-awaited self-regulatory proposal on its product labelling. In practice, the proposal stipulates that alcohol makers will have the freedom to decide whether to place information on the label, online or both.
Due to different interests among winemakers, the spirits industry and the brewers, the industry made in practice three proposals adjusted to their relevant needs.
Consumer organisations strongly criticised the proposal, saying that the alcohol industry wants to “hide” nutrition information from consumers behind the push for online labelling.
In an interview with EURACTIV.com in June, the EU health chief admitted that at first sight, he was not satisfied with the proposal.
“It is not consistent and does not address some issues related to information for consumers: consumers should be fully informed,” he said then.
In his reply to the MEPs, Andriukaitis insisted that there is a number of “gaps and weaknesses” in the proposal that need to be addressed.
“I believe it is important to continue a constructive dialogue in order to find a reasonable solution,” he added.
Winemakers insist on CAP
The wine industry is pushing for its labelling proposal to be part of the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), in order to provide legal certainty to producers and consumers.
“We believe that we have an opportunity with the CAP reform. It’s in front of us, it’s a perfectly legal vehicle and can focus on wine,” Ignacio Sánchez Recarte, the secretary general of the EU wine association (CEEV), recently told EURACTIV.
During a visit to wine cooperatives in South Western France last week, the EU Commissioner stressed that he wanted to “better understand the proposal made by the winemakers”.