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EU Parliament in favour of spirits calorie labelling

Members of European Parliament have voted in favour of making calorie content a mandatory feature on the labels of all alcoholic drinks sold across the EU.

Labelling
Members of European Parliament have adopted a resolution calling for calorie labelling across all alcoholic drinks

In a vote held earlier today, MEPs called for the European Commission to introduce a new law meaning all alcoholic drinks must display their calorie content.

Currently, alcoholic drinks are exempt from an EU law stating all food and drinks must include ingredients and nutritional information on their labels.

MEPs have asked the European Commission to evaluate whether the requirement to provide consumers with information on ingredients and nutritional content should apply to alcoholic beverages, but said calorie content of such drinks should be “clearly stated”.

The Commission should table a legislative proposal for such action by 2016 “at the latest”, MEPs urged, and should consider EU-wide labelling to warn pregnant women not to consume alcohol and alert drinkers to the dangers of drink driving.

The measure was recommended as part of the new EU Alcohol Strategy, which aims to “assist” national governments in dealing with alcohol-related harm.

As part of the recommendations for the Strategy, MEPs also said EU members states should “step up” efforts to protect young people by strictly enforcing legislation on the drinking age limit, and monitor the effects of alcohol advertising on young people.

In addition, MEPs recommended that states consider implementing measures against the sale of “very cheap alcohol”, while the Commission should “tackle cross-border sales of alcohol via the internet”.

Industry support

Trade body Spirits Europe has welcomed European Parliament’s resolution, claiming its focus on tackling alcohol harm rather than on alcohol consumption “is correct”.

“We welcome the Parliament’s interest and we welcome the majority of the proposals they make,” said Paul Skehan, director general of Spirits Europe.

“We support the MEPs’ calls for better research, for better collection of data and for sharing evidence.

“In particular, the spirits sector applauds the parliamentarians’ call for appropriate strategies to tackle the problem of alcohol counterfeiting as well as illegal and black market sales of alcohol.”

The association notes that the spirits sector has contributed to 374 initiatives aimed at tackling harmful use of alcohol across the EU since the inception of the European Alcohol and Health Forum in 2007.

However, Skehan has not yet made a comment specifically about the calorie-labeling vote.

Speaking to The Spirits Business in January this year, Skehan said: “We’re in favour of most relevant information being made available, but we’re not necessarily in favour of putting everything on the bottle.

“If we were to do anything on calories, we would need to see a sensible proposal come forward.” He added that calorie labeling in spirits could be problematic as the standard “kcal per 100 ml” is “misleading” for consumers since it does not match normal liquor serving sizes.

Last month, it was revealed that the world’s largest drinks group Diageo had made a precedent by voluntarily pledging to provide consumers with alcohol content and nutritional information, including calorie content, per typical serve.

This information will either be displayed on its bottles, or provided on its responsible drinking website drinkiq.com.

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