Arguments Aired On Alcohol Labelling

18 March 2011
SNP MEP Alyn Smith has played host to the European Parliament seminar 'What is not on the bottle?'.

Politicians, public health experts and the alcohol industry met at the European Parliament in Brussels to discuss labelling of alcoholic beverages, what labelling would be effective and why legislation should be done at the EU level.
The European Parliament is currently debating the Commission’s proposal on the “Provision of Food Information to Consumers”. Unlike soft drinks and juices, beer, wine and spirits have been exempted from the obligation to list ingredients and provide nutritional information. This is despite the fact that alcohol is high in calorie content, carbohydrates and certain ingredients used in its production can cause allergies or intolerances.
An overwhelming majority of Europeans want to be informed about consequences of drinking; 79% supports warning health messages on bottles and 82% are in favour of such warnings on advertisements (Eurobarometer 2009).
Mr Smith said,

"Pick up just about any beverage on store shelves and you’ll find on the packaging information about the calories and ingredients but not if you're picking up an alcoholic drink. It seems bizarre given that  alcohol is one of the leading risk factors for death and ill health in the EU, especially among young people.

"Scotland's relationship with alcohol is no secret, and this is where the EU has a particular role to play; I’m not saying people shouldn't drink but having access to real information on just what we are tipping down our necks will allow people to make informed decisions. The European Parliament has obliged all food and non alcoholic drinks makers to sharpen up their act, now the drinks industry must do the same.

"No one can deny that we have the right to know what is in our drinks and should be informed about the risks we are taking while drinking. One could argue that the industry’s strong resistance to labelling  alcoholic beverages really should make us all wonder, is the product so bad that it cannot even be labelled?  There is certainly a case to be answered. I'm glad this seminar has provided a forum for discussion."