A group of MEPs has called on the European Commission to turn down an industry proposal on alcohol labelling, claiming that alcoholic beverages should no longer enjoy a preferential regime compared to other foodstuffs.
Sixteen MEPs from the Social Democrats (S&D), European People’s Party (EPP) and the Greens-EFA recently sent a letter to several Commissioners, including President Jean-Claude Juncker, saying that the industry’s proposal was a “disappointment” and insisting that the EU executive should not move forward with it.
Alcoholic beverages are currently exempted from parts of the EU regulation on Food Information to Consumers, which requires nutrition information to be provided per serving of 100ml.
“The current situation created disparities in the internal market, where a milk producer has higher administrative burden than a vodka producer did. We believe that the EU should allow a level playing field for all economic operators and not favour producers of one category of goods,” the EU lawmakers said.
“The European Institutions should align alcoholic beverages with EU regulation on Food Information to Consumers,” they added.
Last March, the alcohol industry presented its much-awaited self-regulatory proposal on labelling. The main feature of the proposal was flexibility among the different alcohol sectors.
The general principle is that individual producers will be able to decide what information they provide on the label and online. Others, including the high number of SMEs and micro-enterprises that produce alcoholic beverages, are likely to use online means only.
The MEPs criticised the industry push for “off-label” information, saying that many EU consumers will not be provided the nutritional information needed.
“Off-label information would exclude millions of Europeans of their right to know what they consume. Less than two-thirds of Europeans use smartphones, and the proposal to introduce website, QR codes as an alternatives to labelling should be rejected by any public body as unworkable,” they noted.
In the meantime, EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis told EURACTIV in June that the EU executive was “not satisfied with the proposal”.
“Our path is clear and we are doing the legal assessment [of the proposal]. At first sight, I am 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. But we need to see what our lawyers will say first,” Andriukaitis said.