The Brief, powered by PLATFORMA – What if you drink faster than you read?

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter

Next month, the EU’s alcohol industry will come up with a much-awaited self-regulatory proposal about labelling of alcoholic beverages.

Under the current regime, producers of alcoholic drinks are not obliged to indicate the list of ingredients and the nutrition declaration, which is not the case for foods.

The industry and public health NGOs are now bickering over two different options – online or on-the-label information?

Which one better informs EU consumers, who are increasingly conscious about what they eat and drink?

One could argue that, in our constantly digitising world, consumers also need to take a step forward in this field, follow the trends and adjust to new technologies.

It’s also true that many, if not most, consumers have a smart phone they can use to scan a product’s code and find out what they drink.

It’s also clear that on the label there is not enough space (except, perhaps, on wine bottles), while online, one can get a full picture of a drink’s ingredients.

This is what the industry says.

But for consumer organisations, things are different. What about those who lag behind in technology? Don’t they also have the right to know what they drink?

At the same time, it is common knowledge that our free time has been shrinking for years now, forcing us to make well-informed purchasing decisions on the spot.

What is quicker – to read nutrition information on the label or online? Then there is the fight within the alcohol industries over the “ml” indicated on labels.

The spirits industry claims that information on calories contained in alcoholic beverages should be provided “per glass” and not per 100ml, which is the legal calorie measurement for all drinks across Europe.

But the brewers do not share the same view.

No one drinks 100ml beer but at least 250ml. Online seems to be a good compromise to bridge this disagreement. But do EU consumers need to go online just because of the industry’s divisions?

Finally, there is also another aspect that emerged from discussions with my colleagues: what if one drinks faster than he/she can read? What kind of labelling to apply then?


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The Roundup

Too little is done by the EU to link its renewable energy policies with rural development, according to a report by the bloc’s auditors, which slams the Commission and member states for failing to take local needs into account.

According to a senior EU official, there is ‘growing consensus’ for fresh plastic recycling laws, as the Commission is looking at targets for recycled plastics into new products as a way to boost demand for secondary raw materials.

Less money won’t make Europe better, according to a member of Greece’s New Democracy party, who wants EU money to focus on less developed areas. Slovakia’s European affairs chief says he is a strong advocate for a communitarian EU. A provisional deal was also reached on labour rules, which should make Emmanuel Macron happy.

Further investigations found no new evidence that Russia used social media to interfere in the UK’s Brexit referendum, Facebook told a British parliamentary committee.

When Brexit becomes reality, Japanese car manufacturers with most of their production sites in the UK will lose access to the single market. Together with Japanese authorities they now hold British PM Theresa May’s feet to fire.

Tony Blair, who was in Brussels today, is right that immigration politics is now a major question across Europe, writes Denis MacShane. After Brexit, the rest of Europe will control freedom of movement sensibly without discriminating on grounds of nationality.

Check the site later for details on how the Commission sent a chill through the tech industry. It wants social media platforms to remove posts promoting terrorism within one hour. The EU’s hopes of super-fast 5G mobile networks threaten to come undone due to an ongoing dispute over spectrums.

Training for the next Winter Olympics has already started on one Amsterdam canal. But these competitors need to get their act together before Beijing 2022 rolls around…

Look out for…

Commission President Juncker was lucky enough to be invited by Mayor of Hamburg Olaf Scholz to the Matthiae-Mahlzeit, one of the world’s oldest festive dinners. The Hamburg Senate traditionally invites some 400 representatives from politics, economy, science, culture and the entire consular corps of Hamburg to a banquet at city hall, where a foreign and a German guest of honour always address the guests.

Views are the author‘s

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