How a vote today could have serious consequences for wine in Europe

The European Parliament is today voting on whether to adopt the recommendations of a report on the fight against cancer, which could make health warnings mandatory on wine – among other measures proposed for alcoholic drinks in Europe , which we have listed below.

In December last year, as reported db at the time, the European Commission approved the conclusion of a report by BECA – the European Parliament’s special committee on the fight against cancer – which declared that all alcohol consumption poses a health risk; there is “no level of security”.

With 29 votes in favor and only one against (and four abstentions), this meant that this report had to be studied, before a new vote by the European Parliament on its conclusions, which takes place today, February 14.

Following this, if the report were fully adopted, wine producers in the 27 EU member countries could face a series of restrictions, which could relate to the way the product is promoted and its price, while the there are also fears that the EU will stop funding everything related to the manufacture of alcoholic beverages, including the management of the vineyard.

The wine sector responded to the conclusions of the BECA report, the European Committee of Wine Companies (CEEV) stressing that “moderate consumption of wine, in particular within the framework of the Mediterranean diet and within the framework of a healthy lifestyle, is associated with greater longevity and disease prevention.

He also pointed out that the “no safe level” assumption is based on a single study – the Global Burden of Diseases (GBD) study published by The Lancet in 2018 – which “has been harshly criticized by the scientific community for its analytical flaws”, according to the CEEV.

See below what is on offer, according to the report, as published by the European Parliament.

The justification of the proposals of the BECA report:

  • Ethanol and acetaldehyde from the metabolism of ethanol in alcoholic beverages are classified as carcinogenic to humans by the IARC [the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of The World Health Organisation]and that in Europe, it is estimated that 10% of all cancer cases in men and 3% of all cancer cases in women are attributable to alcohol consumption.
  • The lower the amount of alcohol consumed, the lower the risk of developing cancer.
  • Alcohol consumption is a risk factor for many different cancers, such as cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colorectal and breast in women.
  • The study cited by the WHO recognizes that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption when it comes to cancer prevention and stresses the need to take this into account when developing and implementing cancer prevention policy.

The proposals of the BECA report

  • welcomes the target of achieving a reduction of at least 10% in the harmful use of alcohol by 2025;
  • encourages the Commission and the Member States to promote actions to reduce and prevent alcohol-related harm as part of a revised EU alcohol strategy*, including a EU zero alcohol strategy alcohol for minors, accompanied, where appropriate, by legislative proposals, while respecting the principle of subsidiarity and the national legislation in force on age limits for the consumption of alcohol;
  • supports the provision of better information to consumers by improving the labeling of alcoholic beverages to include health warning labels and by introducing mandatory indication of the list of ingredients and nutritional information, and furthermore, by introducing digital labeling;
  • asks the Commission to take specific measures targeting excessive and risky alcohol consumption**; Considers it important to protect minors from commercial communication on the consumption of alcohol, as well as from product placement and sponsorship of alcohol brands, including in the digital environment, advertising should not be specifically address minors and not encourage the consumption of alcohol;
  • calls for a ban on alcohol advertising at sporting events where these events are mainly attended by minors, and calls for a ban on the sponsorship of alcohol in sport;
  • calls for careful monitoring of the implementation of the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive***;
  • calls for the proposed Digital Services Act to strengthen Member States’ ability to enforce and enforce legislation to protect minors and other vulnerable populations from commercial communications for alcoholic beverages;
  • encourages the allocation of public funds for national and European awareness campaigns;
  • Supports the planned review of EU legislation on alcohol taxation and on cross-border purchases of alcohol by individuals and a review of alcohol pricing policies, in particular by considering an increase in taxes on alcoholic beverages;

It should be noted that this same report also seeks to do more to tackle tobacco, stating that it “supports the Commission’s proposal to update the Council Recommendation of 30 November 2009 on smoke-free environments, to extend its coverage to emerging products, such as electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products, and to extend smoke-free environments to outdoor spaces.

* Communication from the Commission of 24 October 2006 on an EU strategy to help Member States reduce alcohol-related harm (COM(2006)0625).

* https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045(21)00279-5/fulltext

* Directive (EU) 2018/1808 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018 amending Directive 2010/13/EU on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in the Member States relating to the provision of audiovisual services media (Audiovisual Media Services Directive) in view of changing market realities, OJ L 303, 28.11.2018, p. 69.

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