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Today (1st March) the European plenary session voted on the Pilar Ayuso report on the definition, presentation and labelling of spirit drinks and protection of geographical indications.
When looking at the result one may wonder how much citizens’ spirit is there in the European Parliament these days?
It is an undeniable truth that Members of the European Parliament are representing their constituencies. However, more and more often one can wonder whether they represent their businesses (promptly mobilised by their European associations) or people.
European Parliament today adopted an amendment to the Commission’s proposal, effectively taking the industry’s word as a guarantee for consumer safety.
The measures applicable to spirit drinks constitute a special case compared with the general rules laid down for the agri-food sector. The special features in this instance relate to the fact that traditional production methods continue to be kept alive, that spirit drinks are closely linked with the agricultural sector, the use of high-quality products, and the commitment to protecting consumer safety, which the spirit drinks sector is promising never to abandon.
Does one really need regulators to introduce into legislation promises of spirits drinks sector?
One of the objectives of public bodies should be to effectively protect people from risks and threats that they cannot tackle as individuals. At the same time the plenary session rejected amendments calling for the spirits sector to align with European law provisions.
EU Regulation 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers made considerable changes to the food labelling legislation, demanding that all foodstuffs display ingredients and nutritional values on their packaging. Unfortunately, it exempted alcoholic beverages (containing more than 1,2% by volume) from the obligation to provide information to consumers - listing its ingredients and providing nutritional information.
Last year the European Commission gave alcohol industry one year to come up with self-regulatory proposal.Taking into account that, the industry self- regulatory proposal will be announced on 13th March, it is disheartening to see call for alignment of spirits drinks with the EU Reg 1169/2011 rejected.
Due to insufficient labelling, when a consumer drinks an alcoholic beverage, it is almost certain that they do not know what they are drinking.Listing the ingredients contained in a particular beverage alerts the consumer to the presence of any potentially harmful or problematic substances. Equally important, providing the nutritional information such as calorie content allows the consumer to monitor their diets better and makes it easier to keep a healthy lifestyle.
Providing full information about the product enables consumers to make informed choices and ensures that consumers know what is in the product they are spending their money on.
The asymmetric relationship between the producers and purchasers of alcohol, which the European Parliament has confirmed today by its vote, calls for enhanced consumer protection.