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European Commission publishes report on labeling
Published:  13 March, 2017

The European Commission has published its long-awaited report on the exemption granted to alcohol products from certain mandatory labelling requirements.

According to the UK’s Wine and Spirit Trade Association, outdated nutrition labels will not be forced onto alcohol products after the European Commission challenged the industry to come forward with proposals for providing consumers with information on the content of alcoholic drinks.

WSTA chief executive, Miles Beale (pictured), said: “We welcome the commission’s decision not to force mandatory labeling 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,” said Beale.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) welcomes the commission’s invitation to the alcoholic beverages' industry to develop, within a year, a self-regulatory proposal aiming to provide information on ingredients and nutrition information of all alcoholic beverages. It says the commission has recognised the industry’s commitment to voluntary initiatives in this area.

The SWA says the scotch whisky industry supports providing consumers with relevant and useful information. There is a commitment to providing calorie information to consumers, but this must be done in a meaningful way.

It says it will study the European Commission’s proposals and consult with its members.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, Scotch Whisky Association acting chief executive, 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.”

Diageo, the largest premiumn drinks producer in the world, says it welcomes the publication of the commission's long-awaited report. it says it shares the aim of governments and health professionals around the world to tackle alcohol misuse and promote responsible drinking, and believes that better information is a necessary step to achieve this.

The report is said to open the way to greater collaboration between industry and European institutions. The report also makes it clear that companies are a necessary voice to create appropriate solutions to providing clear and useful information about alcohol to people, based on their needs, says Diageo.

Globally, Diageo claims to be leading the industry in providing people with information about alcohol.

In its statement Diageo states: “We believe in doing this based on what people have told us they find helpful and clear. For example, last year we spoke to more than 1,500 consumers around the world, including people from Great Britain and Spain, about labeling and they told us that, of all the information that could be included on the limited space we have on labels, alcohol information (standard drink size, ABV, how many units), calories per serve, sugar content, allergens and brand facts (such as how a product is made) were most helpful. 

“This is why we committed to the voluntary inclusion of nutrition and alcohol content information on labels as we believe it is the best and fastest way to inform consumers on what they are drinking.

“We believe in providing this information per serve, as the 100ml only is misleading and doesn’t represent the reality of what’s in a drink (we are nevertheless providing the information also per 100ml in markets where this is legally required).”

Diageo states the information per serve also allows for better comparison between the different categories of alcohol beverages, and reinforces the fact that alcohol is alcohol.

“This approach, publically available, has been developed in our new Diageo Consumer Information Standards (DCIS), which launched in July 2016. The designs are consistent in layout so people know where to look on our products and use icons for ease of understanding. The new labels tested well in focus groups and will be gradually rolled out globally,” says Diageo in its corporate statement.

It concludes: “We look forward to working with the rest of the industry and with the European institutions to find the best solution that will help consumers understand what’s in their drinks and support informed and responsible choices about drinking, or choosing not to drink.”