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22/01/2018

Why ‘go online’ is simply not good enough - Eurocare’s reaction to alcohol labelling rumours

Last week (Friday 19 January 2018) it has been reported by Politico that industry self-regulatory proposal regarding alcohol labelling will mainly compose of off-label suggestions.

The alcohol industry is proposing QR codes, bar codes, web links or other online options.

Putting it simply everything to avoid providing information to consumers at the point of sale in easily accessible manner to which consumers are already accustomed.

Why is the alcohol industry so reluctant to comply with Reg (EU) 1169/2011? A sceptic might say because they really do not want you to know what is in their products.

Does European wine have so much to hide from its consumers that they prefer to refer them to a website with a hope that none will really read what is in their wine?

The industry says that online options will reduce burden on operators. Yes, they will by shifting it to the consumer. Does the alcohol industry really have so little respect and appreciation for its customers?

Although, it is evident that the vast majority of the EU population is familiar with the internet, in 2016 Eurostat found that 14% of the EU population had never used the internet[1].

Similarly, QR codes would not prove a sufficient method to provide information to consumers in Europe. Scanning QR codes requires a specialized app that few people have on their phones. Around 35% of Western Europeans do not own a smart phone, which effectively precludes the use of QR codes[2]. Furthermore, scanning a QR code is time consuming - opening the app, pointing camera at the code, focusing the camera, loading the webpage - which adds to the strain of the consumers.

Just this week (22nd January 2018) European Commission, stated that 44% of Europeans lack basic digital skills. Why would the alcohol industry then choose to ignore so many of its customers?

Again, a sceptic might say because they do not care.

Well, Eurocare does care about consumers right to know and that is why it strongly opposes provision of food information (nutrition and ingredients listing) off the label.

Consumers consistently voice their desire for ‘on-label’ information, and for there to be no difference between the provision of information between alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages.

As stated in the European Commission’s report on alcohol labels from 2017, the majority of consumers “never or rarely” use off-label information sources to access information on nutrition values and ingredients of alcoholic beverages.

Should the alcohol industry produce a proposal as indicated (in Politico leaks) which effectively disenfranchises millions of European consumers of their right to know what they consume, we expect the European Commission to reject it and immediately regulate according to EU regulation 1169/2011.

Eurocare would like to highlight that the majority of alcohol consumed in Europe is mass produced by multinational corporations, citing the burden to small producers in order to avoid obligation to provide information to consumers is a questionable tactic. All other foods have managed to comply with EU regulations on nutritional information without compromising product design. The well-established wine industry should have no difficulties in doing the same. Currently, the Common Agricultural Policy spends nearly €250 million a year on wine promotion. Surely some of that money can be used to produce labels that would provide consumers with information on calories and ingredients.

[1] Eurostat (2016) Internet access and use statistics - households and individuals; accessed: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Internet_access_and_use_statistics_-_households_and_individuals#More_than_four_fifths_of_Europeans_used_the_internet_in_2016 accessed 17 January 2-18

[2] Statista, retrieved from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/203722/smartphone-penetration-per-capita-in-western-europe-since-2000/