EU ministers approve new spirits regulation

27 August, 2008
Page 7 
European Union agricultural ministers have reached an agreement on new regulations on the production and labelling of spirits within Europe.

Under the legislation, vodka made from cereals or potatoes will be able to carry a label simply saying "vodka", but vodkas made from other raw materials will have to state what they are on the label.

Other changes include protection of the terms London Gin and Scotch Whisky, and restrictions on flavouring, sweetening and colouring of whisky.

Ministers came to an agreement over the proposals, first tabled for discussion two years ago, on Dec 17 last year.

Mariann Fischer Boel, commissioner for agriculture and rural development said: "I am pleased that we were able to reach a pragmatic compromise on the definition of vodka, which will allow producers of this important product to continue going about their business.

"I think this new regulation will help our producers build on their success and make things clearer for consumers."

The decision on vod ka labelling should please distillers who make vodka from grapes or sugar cane, but will not be well received by producers in Finland, Poland and Sweden who sought to ban the use of the term "vodka" for drink not made from cereals or potatoes (historically they have used sugar beet in years of bad harvests).

The new spirits drinks regulation combines two previous regulations and adapts the rules to take account of technical changes, WTO requirements and the EU's system of geographical indications. It is also designed to help producers market their products while providing more clarity for consumers.