Ireland's Alcohol Label Plan Faces Strong Opposition

Ireland's introduction of warning labels on alcoholic beverages is heavily criticised by the wine industry. And rightly so. A commentary by Vincent Messmer.

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One of the fundamental ideas of the EU is to establish “harmonized” regulations in a democratic procedure. Going it alone at national level undermines the European project and increases the – sometimes strong - mistrust of "Brussels bureaucracy".

However, the arguments put forward are often double-edged. If we want to advocate a conscious, moderate consumption of alcohol, as is repeatedly demanded from the industry itself, why do some people get gasps when the alcohol content in grams, the number of calories or warnings against consumption during pregnancy are to be put on wine bottles?

The connection between alcohol and cancer cannot be completely negated either - the question is how to convey that the health risk is manageable (not: non-existent) with moderate consumption. Shouldn't the wine industry rather work on its own proposals on how to place indications for moderate consumption on alcoholic beverages instead of only casting a fearful glance at the tobacco industry? Incidentally, despite the shock pictures, the tobacco industry is by no means dead yet - those who want to ban smoking from society do it more effectively through raising the price, as the example of New Zealand shows.



Ireland has notified WTO of its draft regulations on the labelling of alcoholic beverages. The Assembly of European Winegrowing Regions (AREV), criticises Ireland's push for alcohol labelling at a national level and calls for a clear counter-position by the EU.

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Good industry, bad industry?

Viticulture is a defining feature in Europe's most beautiful cultural landscapes, and wine itself can - with the right quality - be one of the highest pleasures of an aesthete. Nevertheless, the wine industry is not "better" per se than the spirits or beer industry. Anyone with the will to self-destruct and the necessary capital could probably get cirrhosis of the liver from Château Lafite just as easily as from Pennypacker Bourbon.

So, when one points the finger at others, as Italy's Minister of Agriculture Francesco Lollobrigida did, because they are "much worse", this will eventually backfire on the industry. Besides - a compulsory indication of the alcohol content in grams is precisely what distinguishes a wine from a whisky, so the Irish regulations should actually dispel Mr Lollobrigida's concerns in the bud. And the alcohol content in percent by volume already has to be declared.

Yes, the EU should take a clearer position and castigate fragmented national responses. If only to create confidence in its democratic principles and the strength of its institutions. But the industry should also reflect on which arguments might do it more harm than good. And seek dialogue, come up with its own proposals to curb alcohol abuse instead of just firing against the legislators.




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