24 May 2019 — OIV life

Labelling of alcoholic beverages. Varying degrees of opinion

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Discussions on alcoholic beverage labelling appear to have been reopened by the Codex Alimentarius, which placed this topic on the agenda for its 45th session of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling (CCFL), held on 13-17 May 2019 in Ottawa, Canada.

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Highly contrasting positions

It is already established that where alcoholic beverages are concerned, there is little harmonisation of national regulations with Codex labelling standards. During the discussion in Ottawa, the issue of the presence on the label of the alcohol content as well as energy values and nutritional information rapidly arose and brought contrasting national positions to the fore.

Some delegations considered that the existing Codex texts sufficiently apply to alcoholic beverages and that given the different types of these products and the social values surrounding their use, it is preferable to deal with them at a national level rather than at the level of the Codex.

However, other countries highlighted that it could be necessary to provide additional guidelines specific to the labelling of alcoholic beverages and – since alcoholic beverages are not ordinary foodstuffs – it would be important to inform consumers of the health risks associated with alcohol consumption by providing reliable information on the label.

The OIV offers its expertise

The delegate for the OIV, Scientific Coordinator Jean-Claude Ruf, drew the attention of the Committee to the complexity of labelling alcoholic beverages.

Should the Codex come to undertake new work on this matter, the OIV has already specified that it would be necessary to define the minimum alcohol content of alcoholic beverages and to clarify the definitions of the products to which the standard would apply, in order to take into account the specificities of certain products.

It is worth noting that the OIV has already carried out a revision of its own standard for the labelling of wines and wine-based spirits. Therefore, it would be useful for the potential discussions within the Codex to take into consideration the work of the OIV, which is the sole intergovernmental organisation collaborating with the Codex on this topic.

Dossier to follow within the working groups formed by the Codex...

45th session of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling (CCFL)