The regulation of labels on products such as wine and beer is appearing in recent months recurring controversy in the European institutions, which have yet to develop and update the community regulation on labeling. Only in the case of wine are there new developments, since the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will oblige from December 8 of this year to include nutritional and energy information on all bottles marketed in the European Union, as well as allergens For all of the above, Ireland’s intention to force the inclusion of health warnings similar to those used in the case of tobacco has unleashed a strong reaction from European winemakers. Just this week, both the European Committee of Wine Companies (Comité Vins – CEEV) and the Spanish Wine Federation (FEV) submitted formal complaints to the European Commission demanding that they stop Irish regulation. In the coming days it is expected that the Spanish Federation of Food and Beverage Industries (FIAB), among other European organizations, will also do so.
In any case, the Irish claims have already collided during the notification process, necessary for matters in which Brussels has jurisdiction, with an important ‘but’ on the part of 13 member states of the European Union, including Spain: the possible incompatibility with the character of the single market of the European Union. Also in the World Trade Organization (WTO) up to 8 non-European countries have expressed their objections to a rule that they see as one more trade barrier.
In conversation with La Información, the general director of the FEV, José Luis Benítez, considers that the new regulations that Ireland intends to approve “violates the single market” and predicts that it will mean “a huge problem”. For Benítez it will constitute “a practical cost” for the wineries and he will not hesitate to speak of “chaos”, if within the European Union (EU), in each market it is labeled in a different way. In his opinion, Dublin should “wait for the European Commission and participate in the legislative process defending its legitimate interests.”
What exactly is Ireland up to?
The authorities of what is known as ‘Isla Emeralda’ have the objective with this new regulation of developing section 12 of the Public Health Law, approved in 2018, and which establishes the inclusion of certain health warnings on the labeling of alcoholic beverages that are marketed in the country, whether they are made locally or of foreign origin, together with data such as allergens and nutritional information. Specifically, it is about informing consumers about possible risks to their health by incurring in the intake of this type of beverage.
In a Written Response to a Parliamentarian last April, the Irish Minister for Health, StePhen Donnelly, recalled that the Plan to Fight Cancer TESTED IN 2021 ALREADY Pointed to the Intention of Introducing Health Warnings on Alcoholic Beverages and recalled there were already some proposals. “However, as there are no published proposals on this type of labeling on alcoholic beverages, an assessment cannot be made at this time. I look forward to engaging constructively with our EU partners on any proposals on alcohol labeling that may materialize in the future”, concludes the Irish minister.
Although the European employers’ association Comité Vins – CEEV pointed out this week, in a statement, that “from the European winery sector we fully support the fight against alcohol abuse, commerce.” It is precisely the non-distinction between abusive consumption and a moderate one, which leads Spanish winemakers upside down. For Benítez (FEV) the worst thing is that Irish legislation could “set a very negative precedent: demonize a product that, with normal consumption patterns, does not have to be dangerous to health.” In this sense, also that “unilateral” measures be adopted with respect to the inclusion or not of health warnings, when Brussels has in its roadmap to legislate on the matter.
the weight of the irish market
For Spain, the Republic of Ireland represented its seventeenth wine export market last year, selling wines to this country for a value of 31.23 million euros, according to the Spanish Wine Market Observatory (OeMv). This represents 5.7% less than in 2021
Debate in the WTO and the Spanish presidency of the EU
In this regard, Benítez recalls that the European Commission has a 12-month term, which can be extended, to respond to formal complaints and acknowledges that “I do not think the European Commission will give a swerve” by taking matters into action immediately and urges the Government to take advantage of the next European presidency (which begins on July 1) to promote a rectification of the Irish regulation. In this sense, he recalls that Brussels has been answering that it is “a public health problem in Ireland and a proportionate measure”.
“Irish legislation can set a very negative precedent: demonizing a product that, with normal guidelines, does not have to be dangerous to health”, José Luis Benítez (FEV)
Another derivative is that the objections of 8 third countries (United States, Chile, New Zealand, Cuba…) on the Irish regulations within the World Trade Organization (WTO) are confirmed. Very relevant will be the meeting on June 21 of one of its many committees, the Technical Barriers to Trade, which may lead to the opening of a file. What can encourage Brussels to move a piece and avoid future problems with third countries.
Self-regulation among Spanish wineries
Neither have Spanish winemakers sat idly by in recent months and, at the last general assembly of the Spanish Wine Federation (FEV) held on April 19, their associates gave the green light to the introduction of pictograms on labeling electronic (which can be read through a QR code) warning against the risks of abusive consumption, for groups such as pregnant women, those under 18 years of age and drivers. In addition to adding warnings about the health consequences of excessive intake. On the physical label it will still be voluntary. “We are also working to include a series of more complex messages about risky consumption”