Commission indicates Irish labelling plan is legal
Earlier this year an Irish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Lynn Boylan asked the European Commission (EC) about the Irish labelling proposal.
The three questions she posed were:
- Does the Commission view favourably the labelling of health warnings on alcohol products?
- Would labelling of health warnings that are under one third of the overall space be in contravention with any internal market rules and does the Commission believe it will be disproportionately burden small brewers?
- What does the Commission propose bringing forward to address nutritional information?
This week the EC provided an answer sustaining the well- established principle in the EU case law that as long as a public health measure is considered proportional it is legal. In its response the European Commission acknowledge the value of health information on alcoholic beverages:
‘Warnings on labels of alcoholic beverages can be an important component of public health policies carried out at national level, to reduce alcohol-related harm. If well designed, targeted and implemented, health messages on labels can raise awareness and encourage a change in perception of the risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption. According to the Court of Justice, it is for the national authorities to provide the necessary evidence to that effect’
The EC answer continues:
‘While securing the attainment of the Member State objective of protecting human health, alcohol health warnings should not unnecessarily hinder, directly or indirectly, actually or potentially, intra-Union trade of alcoholic beverages To this end, the size of the labelling of health warnings needs to be limited to ensure it remains proportionate, thus, avoiding disproportionate burdens on, among others, economic operators including small brewers and making sure that it is not provided to the detriment of the clarity of other mandatory food information’
This comes to contradiction to often sensationalist headlines in the Irish press saying that the EU will stop Ireland from introducing improved labelling provisions for alcoholic beverages.
Such tactics by the alcohol industry lobbyists are well-known and feed into growing scepticism – ‘Brussels says no’ or ‘EU will not allow it’ when it suits a given corporate interest.
The EU will not stop a country from protecting the health of its citizens, what it will only raise is questions if a given measure is proportional.
What is more, the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis on a number of occasions expressed his strong support for Irish Alcohol Bill.
In July leading public health organisations from across Europe also expressed their strong support for the Irish Bill in their contributions to the Alcohol Irish Bill, including labelling.
It appears it is about time for alcohol labels across Europe to start changing and provide more information about its ingredients, nutritional value and potential side-effects.