European Parliament Plenary vote on 1 March on Regulation 110/ 2008
Another milestone in the creation of a new spirit drinks regulation will be reached when the Parliament votes in plenary on 1 March. The amendments adopted in ENVI brought numerous improvements that are supported by the sector and we hope these will be endorsed in the plenary vote. Parliamentary deadlines mean it is not yet certain which individual issues will be voted, i.e. separate from the ENVI block of amendments, but it appears that some of the areas on which the sector continued to have concerns may again feature.
The question of whether to allow non-agricultural alcohol in spirit drinks remains a key difficulty. Spirits are made only from agricultural raw materials; the proposal that alcohol from processed foodstuffs (including beer) should be allowed is therefore alarming. The beer sector in particular is massive, much larger than spirits, and the increased availability of alcohol extracted from beer (due to the growing popularity of alcohol-free beer), would have the potential to cause huge disruption to traditional, agricultural alcohol supply chains. An economic impact assessment is therefore needed before any further consideration is given to allowing spirits to be made using alcohol from a non-agricultural source.
Separately, it appears that MEPs will be invited again to consider whether to allow protected names to be used to describe imitation flavours. We hope they will reject this: clearly a mechanism is needed to ensure that the one name widely used for flavourings (rum) continues to be permitted, but it should not be a precedent to allow every protected name to be used to describe flavours. Elsewhere, we understand that the amendments seeking to reduce acidity levels (a consequence of the fruit used) in certain stone-fruit spirits will also be voted separately. We hope MEPs will reject the changes because this issue is currently being reviewed by EFSA and it would be premature to act before the findings are published later this year. Finally, amendments seeking to introduce ingredient and nutrition labelling also seem likely to feature. As labelling in this area needs to relate to all alcoholic beverages and as it is already the subject of a separate review mandated by the Commission, it would be inappropriate for it to feature in the technical regulation only relating to spirit drinks.