Guest article by Emil Juslin, European Policy Officer at IOGT-NTO, and Runa Neely, European Liasion Officer at IOGT-NTO

The question of alcohol labelling has been a topic of discussion in the EU since the 1970s, yet there is still no legislation in place. Since the publication of the Europe´s Beating Cancer Plan in February 2021 the discussion has once again reappeared on the EU-agenda. Why is one of the most harmful products sold on the EU-market still not required to provide even the most basic information on its labels?

Today, every single drink and food product on the European market is required to have mandatory information to be provided on labels according to the so-called Food Information for Consumers (FIC)-regulation. The FIC-regulation requires products to declare a list of ingredients as well as nutritional and energy values on labels to help consumers make informed choices.

There is only one product that is exempt from this rule – alcoholic beverages containing more than 1.2 % alcohol. Let that sink in. Every product we consume have labelling requirements, except for the products that by far cause the most harm to us.

The current labelling requirements for the industry is self-regulated, which has led to inadequate and wildly different results, with no one living up to the same demands as the requirements existing on non-alcoholic beverages. However, for this, they have received immense praise and recognition from policymakers.  It is shocking that the alcohol industry is celebrated for not even doing the bare minimum. 

The current exemption alcoholic beverages hold cannot be seen as something other than purely political. It is a successful lobby campaign by the alcohol industry to avoid informing about both how nutritionally unhealthy their products are as well as the significant negative health impacts alcohol causes.

The alcohol industry should not be praised for doing what every other product has been required to do for centuries. If there is anything the current self-regulation system has shown is that strong legislation is the only way to guarantee high standards when it comes to labelling and consumer information.

In fact, alcohol should be regulated more strictly than any other product considering alcohol’s negative impact on both people’s health and society at large. European citizens have a right to know both about the content of alcohol products as well as how it affects their health. Alcoholic beverages should therefore also have clear health warnings, informing of the negative health impacts of alcohol products.

The only benefactor of the current system is the alcohol industry who can keep acting freely in an unregulated space. It is time to introduce mandatory labelling for alcoholic beverages to ensure that EU-policy put citizens right to know above the wishes of the industry.  

Disclaimer: the opinions – including possible policy recommendations – expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EPHA. The mere appearance of the articles on the EPHA website does not mean an endorsement by EPHA. 

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