Written by Tarja Laaninen (updated on 30.9.2021).
In its Europe’s Beating Cancer plan, published in February 2021, the European Commission suggests – among other initiatives concerning cancer prevention – several actions concerning alcoholic beverages, such as limiting online advertising and promotion, and reviewing European Union (EU) legislation on the taxation of alcohol. Also among the proposals is mandatory labelling of ingredients and nutrient content on alcoholic beverages by the end of 2022. Health warnings on labels should follow by the end of 2023.
First attempts to label ingredients of alcoholic drinks were already made in the late 1970s, however the Council was not able to agree on any of the proposed models. Furthermore, alcoholic drinks containing more than 1.2 % by volume of alcohol (ABV) are exempted from the obligation, set on other drinks and foodstuffs, to list the ingredients and make a nutritional declaration on the label.
The European Commission adopted a report in 2017, concluding that it had ‘not found objective grounds that would justify’ the absence of information on ingredients and nutritional information on alcoholic beverages. Following on from the Commission’s report, the European associations representing the alcoholic beverages sectors presented their self-regulation proposal in March 2018, suggesting that some sectors would list all ingredients on labels, while others could use online means of communication instead.
Stakeholders have differing views on the desirability and feasibility of listings on-label; some would prefer this information to be allowed to be given off-label through QR-codes, apps or websites, while others absolutely insist that alcoholic drinks should be no different from other sectors of the food and drink industry. The European Parliament has called on the European Commission to consider a health warning and calorie content on alcoholic beverage labels.
This is an update of a Briefing published in April 2021.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Alcohol labelling‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.
Listen to policy podcast ‘Alcohol labelling’ on YouTube.