Thursday, August 11

debate reopens in Brussels on whether to label it as tobacco


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As happened during the preparation of the European plan to combat cancer, which gave birth to the first Community strategy against this disease, the debate about whether any alcohol consumption (including wine) increases the risk of developing this disease will return to the European Parliament in the coming weeks, as revealed by popular MEPs Dolors Montserrat and Juan Ignacio Zoido during a meeting with representatives of the main wine appellations of origin and the Spanish Wine Federation (FEV) in Brussels. This time it will do so through a new modification of the European Regulation 1169/2011 on food information provided to the consumer (or ‘Food Information to Consumers Regulation, FIC’), which regulates the labeling of food products.

Specifically, political groups and civil society organizations want a warning to be included from 2023 on the increased risk of getting cancer by the consumption of alcoholic beverages such as wine, gin, vodka or beer. Again, without distinguishing whether it is a moderate or abusive consumption.

On the other hand, the popular MEP Dolors Montserrat has also referred to the Oslo Declaration signed a few days ago by social movements such as the Youth Health Organization, EuroCare and Movendi International in which the introduction of warnings of this type in the labeling is supported as “ensuring that the process of preparing health policies is protected from interference of the alcohol industry. In addition to betting on “restricting or prohibiting the exposure to marketing of alcoholic products particularly young people and other vulnerable groups.

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From the FEV, its general director José Luis Benítez, has reacted immediately to what Montserrat pointed out, who is a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety of the European Parliament and president of the Committee on Petitions, recalling that “There is no scientific evidence that the moderate consumption of wine or cava in the Mediterranean diet causes damage to health, there are even favorable studies on ischemia or diabetes». In this sense, he added that in the case of abusive consumption the highest risk of ending up developing cancer is “minimal”. He has also categorically denied that wine is a carcinogenic product. A point of view that received the support of the main denominations of origin present in person and by videoconference, from Rioja through Jumilla or Rías Baixas.

The also responsible for the delegation of the popular Spanish in Brussels has insisted on the need to differentiate between responsible and abusive consumption. Along these lines, she has also claimed the value of the Mediterranean diet as a World Heritage Site and has opted for the implementation of a European strategy of ‘Alcohol 0 for young people’. “We will continue to watch over the interests of the sector in Brusselswhich are those of citizens, to avoid health warnings similar to those of tobacco”, stressed the popular MEP who has also criticized that this “is not a priority for the Government”.

For his part, the popular MEP and member of the Commission for Agriculture and Rural Development, Juan Ignacio Zoido, highlighted the role of wine in the carbon absorption and the sustainable nature of this activity. In addition to denouncing the complicated situation that this activity is going through due to the inflation of raw materials and the lack of supplies. In this sense, he has denounced that «some from Europe they are trying to criminalize wine» and urged that, in terms of labeling, use “objective and scientific criteria, not ideological questions.”

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Alternatives: Pictograms on labels?

The representatives of the main appellations of origin have chosen to obtain the support of all the Spanish MEPs, of different political groups and to be “proactive” before this type of proposals, communicating the qualities of this product to the consumer. In addition, they have put before the table several of the alternatives that are already being considered, such as the pictograms on labels, which would be voluntary. In addition to opening the door to the study of the reuse or recycling of materials such as bottles, although Benítez (FEV) has warned that everything will be subject to consumer safety.

Community sources have pointed out that a future proposal from the European Commission may help to assume “a level playing field”. In this sense, these sources have recognized that, within the European Commission, “The internal debate is not overalthough this seems to lean towards the unfavorable side towards agriculture» although the war in Ukraine has brought everything related to agriculture and the need to have products to eat «at acceptable prices for the consumer» into the news.

‘Nutriscore’ and the EFSA

References to the nutritional labeling system born in France were also not lacking ‘nutricore’, a modification of the one used by the British Food Standards Agency. Both Dolors Montserrat and Zoido have criticized that this classification penalizes Spanish products such as olive oil and Serrano ham. Both have agreed that, despite having obtained the approval of the World Health Organization (WHO) and being used in several European countries, it is the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) based in Parma (Italy) which does this work “based on scientific evidence” and since it is a public European agency.

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