Europe’s alcoholic drinks sector has welcomed the European Commission’s call for a self-regulated approach to alcohol nutrition labelling.
Drinks with an alcohol content of more than 1.2% ABV are presently exempt from legislation on mandatory food labelling, introduced by the European Union (EU) in December 2014.
But some manufacturers provide nutrition or ingredient information on a voluntary basis, and a number of EU member states – most notably Ireland – have adopted or proposed national measures imposing stricter labelling requirements on certain alcoholic beverages.
The European Commission has given the industry a year to develop ‘a harmonised approach’ that can be adopted as a European standard, and used to inform consumers about the ingredients and nutritional value of the alcohol they consume.
The invitation was a recommendation of a new report into food labelling adopted by the commission yesterday.
The EU’s commissioner for health and food safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, said: “This report supports the right of people in the EU to be fully informed about what they drink. Moreover, it does not identify any objective grounds justifying the absence of the list of ingredients and nutrition information on alcoholic beverages. The expansion of voluntary initiatives from the sector has already been ongoing and is brought to the fore in this report.”
The call for a self-regulated proposal has been welcomed by trade associations including the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).
SWA acting chief executive Julie Hesketh-Laird said: “The SWA welcomes the Commission’s invitation for the alcoholic drinks industry to set out a self-regulatory way forward. We believe that Scotch Whisky should be consumed in a responsible manner, as part of a balanced diet. It is right that consumers have the information they need to make choices that fit with a healthy lifestyle, including calorie intake. The Scotch Whisky industry is therefore happy to provide meaningful information in a format that is simple to understand and linked with actual serving sizes, supporting consumer choice.”
And WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “We welcome the Commission’s decision not to force mandatory labelling on alcohol at this stage and instead have turned to industry to come forward with the most effective way to properly inform consumers, without space limitations, in this digital age.
“The WSTA has offered alcohol calorie information on its website for two years, as have a number of drinks companies and retailers who all took voluntary action to help consumers find out more about their favourite drinks.
“Trying to cram more information on product labels which have limited space is a backward step. We should not be using 20th Century methods on a 21st Century issue. People who want to know more about what they are drinking are very capable of going online and finding out for themselves. The alcohol industry has shown they are ahead of the game on nutrition information and have for some time provided consumers with off–label calorific content of drinks.”
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