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Following the notification made last June by the Irish government, through the Technical Regulations Information System (TRIS), expressing its intention to introduce labelling for alcoholic beverages similar to that used for cigarettes, and after six months have passed without the Commission having expressed its opinion on the matter, this member state is taking a step away from the common regulation in the reform of the labelling regulation and, in the opinion of the Assembly of European Wine Regions (AREV), is calling into question the unity of Europe in the implementation of decisions taken by the European Parliament and the Council, this member state is taking a step back from the common regulation in the reform of the labelling regulation and, in the opinion of the Assembly of European Wine Regions (AREV), is calling into question the unity of Europe in the implementation of democratically adopted decisions, putting at risk, in this case, the wine sector, which is so important for the structuring of the territory and the socio-economic fabric of rural areas.

This tacit consent of the Commission, with its decision not to issue any notification, gives the green light to Ireland to move towards a national regulation, which is progressing and whose next step, in the coming weeks, will be the notification to the WTO of this intention, as this also constitutes an obstacle to international trade.

In view of this fact, AREV would like to see an even clearer position from the European Commission, in defence of the general strategy, agreed for the European Union, at a time when the revision of the European regulation on the labelling of all foodstuffs (Food Information for Consumers) is underway.

The prosperity of this type of initiative could question and modify the labelling of wine, conditioning the revision of the regulation, initially planned for the end of 2022 and which has been delayed due to the difficulties in finding a proposal that would bring together a broad consensus, which would include, in addition to this issue, other sensitive matters such as a harmonised system of nutritional labelling, among others.

AREV recalls that on 16 February 2022, within the framework of the vote on the report of the Special Committee “Fight against Cancer” (BECA) “Strengthening Europe in the fight against cancer – towards a comprehensive and coordinated strategy” the European Parliament voted in favour of differentiating between moderate consumption and alcohol abuse in terms of impact and danger to health. On this basis, a possible label warning about the danger of alcohol, without reference to the type of alcohol consumption, would be meaningless and would create a precedent against the representative democracy expressed by the European Parliament.

AREV shares the position of the Ministers of Agriculture of a large number of European countries. As the Italian Minister of Agriculture, Francesco Lollobrigida, stated, the measure is “not aimed at protecting health but at influencing the markets (…) by labelling wine ‘unhealthy’, they are directing consumption towards strong alcohols which are objectively more harmful”. And so there is a risk of misleading “The consumer” who will be “thus convinced that wine is as bad as whiskey.”

On the other hand, the AREV welcomes the statements made last week by the Commission spokesman, Stefan DE KEERSMAECKER, during a press conference (https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-236337), who underlined that ” “No one is against wine, I think everyone likes a glass of wine, but what the Cancer Plan is aiming at is excessive consumption (“HARMFUL”) of alcohol, which is a public health problem“.  From AREV’s point of view, this line clearly expresses the spirit of the report adopted in the European Parliament, and following this line is the one that the Commission should actively defend, not only through declarations but in the face of facts such as the one confirmed by the Government of Ireland.

AREV is concerned by this kind of precedent and calls for greater responsibility, courage, clarity, and coherence in alcohol prevention policy and education.

Irish draft legislation on the introduction of health warnings on the label of alcoholic beverages.

The warnings that the Irish Government plans to introduce on the label of alcoholic beverages include:

  • A warning to inform of the dangers of alcohol consumption for pregnant women.
  • A warning to inform of the correlation between alcohol and deadly cancers.
  • The percentage of alcohol in grams contained in the product.
  • The number of calories contained in the alcoholic product.
  • A link to a health website providing information on alcohol and its harms.

Following communication to the WTO of its intention to adopt this labelling, Ireland may formally adopt legislation at a national level, for which there will be a transition period of 3 years.