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European Parliament's Wine Intergroup Meeting in Strasbourg

Strasbourg, 16 January. The wine Intergroup of the European Parliament met in Strasbourg to discuss the revision of the EU legislation on food and nutrition labelling. They invited Paula Pinho from the cabinet of Commissioner Kyprianou to speak on the recent steps taken by the commission to put forward legislation on food and nutrition labelling.

Pinho announced the commission proposal would come out at the end of January. She therefore wanted to inform the wine Intergroup of this legislation and find out what the group thought in order to inform Commissioner Kyprianou of this.

She stated that food labelling already exists with legislation that goes back to the 1970's. The commission has been consulting consumers on this issue and their research showed that consumers find it difficult to understand labelling. Nutrition labelling is an important source of information for consumers.

Pinho stated that the main objectives of the proposal are to: consolidate and update legislation, void misleading labeling; ensure the smooth functioning of the internal market and foster competitiveness of food industry labels and not create a barrier between them.

Regarding alcoholic beverages she explained that the situation was rather complex. On a sectoral basis there is legislation on wine but not on a general across the broad way. Pinho took the example of ‘Alcopops' which include alcohol but have no legal obligation to label and as a consequence no one knows what is in these drinks. She concluded by saying she could not go further into this but that she would report to Commissioner Kyprianou the outcome of the meeting.

Lulling (EPP-ED, LU), the chairwoman of the Intergroup thanked Pinho for her presentation and said the group was keen to see how things are developing as there is always apprehension at what the commission might come up with.

José Ramon Fernandez from the Comité Européen des enterprises vins (CEEV)gave the following 10 reasons why wine should be exempt from legislation on labelling: (see link to his power point presentation below).

  • Wines are agricultural products defined as such by the EU treaties and wine common market organisation;
  • Wine is submitted to an exhaustive and detailed regulation at EU (CMO) and national level;
  • Only substances included in positive list of oenological practices and treatments can be used for the production of wine;
  • Wine is not the result of fixed manufacturing recipes;
  • Apart from processing aids most substance that are allowed in winemaking and also naturally present;
  • As wine is a natural fermented product, any final ingredients can not be known until just before bottling; the wine ages and evolves in the bottle as well;
  • There will be disproportionate cost implication for a sector composed mainly of SMEs;
  • Consumer expectations must be considered;
  • Wine is legally recognised as being fully descriptive of the nature and content of the product;
  • International trade of wine would be adversely affected.

The floor was then open to discussion and all comments made suggested that there is already an excess of information and the commission ought not to legislate further on wine. The consumers generally know what is in wine and the labelling would be unnecessary. There was a suggestion that the focus should be on quality recognition and it will be difficult for Europe to remain a leader in the wine industry if it continues to come out with superfluous legislation instead of investing in quality.

Lulling (EPP-ED, LU) said that what should be considered is the position these new rules will put Europe versus third countries.

Pinho stated in response to the comments made that the commission is working on the basis of studies done on what the consumers' desire. She said the commission does not want all information on the label but is objective is to simplify this information.

Fernandez (CEEV) stated that it is not by bringing out nutritional information that wine will be brought closer to the consumer.

Lulling (EPP-ED, LU) concluded the meeting by saying that the proposals of Commissioner Kyprianou have not yet been adopted by the college of commissioners. She therefore encouraged the group to make sure the proposition does not go to the college and to become active on this issue. She said it must be stopped in time and there must be a clear message sent to Commissioner Kyprianou.

Further information:

CEEV's (Comité Européen des enterprises vins) power-point presentation setting out their legal, technical and economic arguments for considering wine as a food product and, thus, for exempting it from any obligation to list ingredients or energy values.