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16/06/2010

Parliament votes to exempt all alcoholic beverages from labelling proposal

16 June 2010. At the First Reading vote on the food information to consumers proposal the European Parliament has introduced an amendment to include a temporary derogation for all alcoholic beverages which exempts them from the obligation to list ingredients and nutritional information to all alcoholic beverages.

Food information to consumers ***I

Amendment 28
Proposal for a regulation
Recital 34

Text of the Commission proposal

 

Text approved by the Parliament

(34) In general, consumers are not aware of the potential contribution of alcoholic beverages to their overall diet. Therefore, it is appropriate to ensure that information on the nutrient content of in particular mixed alcoholic beverages is provided .

 

(34) In general, consumers are not aware of the potential contribution of alcoholic beverages to their overall diet. It would therefore be helpful if manufacturers were to provide information on the energy content of alcoholic beverages.

 
 

Amendment 294
Proposal for a regulation
Article 20 – paragraph 1 – point e

Text of the Commission proposal

 

Text approved by the Parliament

(e) wine as defined in Council Regulation (EC) No 1493/1999, beer, and spirits as defined in Article 2(1) of Regulation (EC) No. […] of […] of the European Parliament and of the Council on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of geographical indications of spirit drinks and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 1576/89. The Commission shall produce a report after [five years of the entry into force of this Regulation] concerning the application of Article 19 on these products and may accompany this report by specific measures determining the rules for labelling ingredients . Those measures designed to amend non-essential elements of this Regulation, by supplementing it shall be adopted in accordance with the regulatory procedure with scrutiny referred to in Article 49(3);

 

(e) drinks that contain alcohol. The Commission shall produce a report after [five years of the entry into force of this Regulation] concerning the application of this paragraph on these products and may accompany this report by specific measures determining the rules for providing consumers with nutritional information on these products . Those measures designed to amend non-essential elements of this Regulation by supplementing it, shall be adopted, in accordance with the regulatory procedure with scrutiny referred to in Article 49(3);

Commenting on the vote, Green MEP Carl Schlyter, Vice-President of the Environment committee said “ We deeply regret that parliament followed industry's lobbying efforts and even enlarged the exemption for alcohol at the request of the EPP, even though alcohol is also a food with a high calorie content, of which most consumers are not aware”.

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The final vote in Parliament today was 559 in favour, 54 against and 32 abstentions. However, no quick agreement is expected with Council, so the draft legislation is likely to return to Parliament for a second reading. Once the legislation is adopted, food business will have three years to adapt to the rules. Smaller operators, with fewer than 100 employees and an annual turnover under €5 million, would have five years to comply. A common position of the Council - EP is expected at the end of 2010.

The final adoption of the text is expected by the end of 2011 or later.

According to lobbying watchdog CEO (Corporate Europe Observatory) the food industry has spent millions on blocking understandable labels in one of the largest ever lobbying campaigns activities conducted in Brussels, with MEPs being bombarded with thousands of e-mails, letters, phone calls, sponsored reports, lectures and conferences.

Debate prior to the vote

On June 15 the European parliament held a debate on this issue before the vote on 16 June. Please find below a summary of the debate and a detailed voting list.

John Dalli, European Commissioner He then highlighted the most important issues covered by the proposed amendments.

Carl Schlyter (Greens/EFA, SE). Alcoholic beverages should be treated in the same way as foodstuffs. Misleading advertising needs to be stopped.

Nessa Childers (S&D, IE) Alcohol producers should also label their products for calories.

Chris Davies (ALDE, UK) Davis will be voting for traffic light systems, country of origin labelling and extending requirements to alcoholic beverages.

Jacek Kurski (ECR, PL) This legislation is of great interest to voters. Information on food origin must be included with no exception for processed food (the main ingredient being decisive). Alcohol beverages should be subjected to the same requirements.

Mairead McGuinness (EPP, IE) McGuinness is unsure about colour-coding systems. Cigarette warning labels have little effect on smokers.

Gilles Pargneaux (S&D, FR). He is against including alcoholic beverages and would like separate legislation for this domain.

Procedure: Ordinary legislative procedure - First reading

Rapporteur: Renate Sommer (EPP, DE) Documents: Session documents / Amendments / Oeil