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Update on proposal for Provision of Food Information to Consumers- alcohol still exempted

The Commission's proposal for a regulation on the Provision of Food Information to Consumers is now back at the European Parliament (EP) for a second reading.

At first reading, the EP followed the Commission's proposal to exclude wine, beer and spirits from the requirement to list their ingredients and provide nutrition information on the labels (Click here to read the text adopted by the EP).

At first reading the Council agreed to exempt certain alcoholic beverages (such as wines, products derived from aromatized wines, mead, beer, spirits) from nutrition labelling rules as well as from the indication of the list of ingredients. The Commission should, however 'produce a report within five years of the entry into force of this Regulation addressing whether some categories of beverages should be exempted, in particular, from providing the information on the energy value, and the reasons justifying possible exemptions, taking into account the need to ensure coherence with other relevant European Union policies. The Commission may also propose, if necessary, specific requirements in the context of this Regulation'.

The Council position also provides that information contained in the nutrition declaration can be provided on a voluntary basis by the producers, in particular concerning the nutrition declaration i.e. energy values.

Furthermore, the Council ‘intentionally did not exempt beverages where alcohol is mixed with soft drinks (commonly called ‘alcopops'), mainly consumed by young people in large quantities'

As a rule, alcoholic beverages are exempted from bearing the list of ingredients. However, if different provisions are applicable at national level, the Council believed ‘there is no reason not to maintain them'.

This proposed piece of legislation has proved very contentious over the last years. Apart from the exemption of alcoholic beverages, a number of other issues are still causing heated debate, among them: country of origin; front of pack labelling; portion size; trans fats; legibility of the labels.

Due to the large amount of controversial issues and conflicting interests it will be extremely difficult to reach an agreement which means that most probably the conciliation procedure will have to be applied.

During the latest debate in the ENVI Committee (12th April) a Commission's representative also expressed hopes that compromise would be reached.

Ms Renate Sommer (EPP, DE) is the Rapporteur on this controversial dossier.
Shadow rapporteurs: Socialists: Glenis Willmott (S&D, UK), Greens: Carl Schlyter (Greens/EFA, SE), Liberals: Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE, NL), Conservatives: Struan Stevenson (ECR, UK), United Left: Kartika Tamara Liotard (GUE/NGL, NL)

In response to the Council's proposition to require alcopops to list their ingredients, Ms Sommer has in her report asked the Commission for a definition of alcopops (Amendment 51) and proposed to exempt all alcoholic beverages (Amendment 10).

For this second reading in the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) there are more than 250 amendments tabled. Some of them are resubmissions of amendments tabled during the first reading; also a considerable number of amendments are of a technical nature. Within the Committee itself it did not emerge clearly, whether amendments from the first reading can be re-submitted. This will be consulted with the EP Legal services before the Committee vote, which is scheduled for the 19th of April.

The vote in the plenary is planned for July this year.

In relation to alcohol, a number of amendments were submitted by the MEPs. See below some of them:

Kartika Tamara Liotard (GUE/NGL, NL) - Amendment 111, asking for ingredients listing on alcoholic beverages.

Asa Westlund (S&D, SE), Christel Schaldemose (S&D, DK), Dan Jorgensen (S&D, DK) - Amendment 112 asking for definition of alcopops, stricter labelling requirements for them and clear separation from soft drinks in shops.

Kartika Tamara Liotard (GUE/NGL, NL) - Amendment 114, asking for deletion of Council proposition to extend exemption to ‘beverages containing more than 1,2% by volume of alcohol obtained from fermentation of fruit or vegetables, mead and all types of beer'

Glenis Willmott (S&D, UK), Carl Schlyter (Grens/EFA, SE), Antonyia Parvanova (ALDE, BG), Michele Rivasi (Greens/EFA, FR), Asa Westlund (S&D, SE) - Amendment 115, broadening the scope of the Commission's report to be submitted in 5 years time, regarding exemption of the alcoholic beverages.

Kartika Tamara Liotard (GUE/NGL, NL) - Amendment 160, asking for stating energy and sugar values for alcoholic beverages above 1.2%.

Glenis Willmott (S&D, UK), Parvanova (ALDE, BG), Asa Westlund (S&D, SE) - Amendment 192 broadening the scope of the Commission's report to be submitted and asking for a shortening of the deadline from 5 to 2 years.

Carl Schlyter (Grens/EFA, SE), Michele Rivasi (Greens/EFA, FR) - Amendment 194 similar to amendment 192.