‘Mandatory EU alcohol labelling unlikely to impact SA wine exports’

‘Mandatory EU alcohol labelling unlikely to impact SA wine exports’

Although the adoption of recommendations to make health warnings mandatory on all alcoholic drinks in Europe could initially result in additional costs, it is not expected to have a major impact on South African wine producers.

Although the adoption of recommendations to make health warnings mandatory on all alcoholic drinks in Europe could initially result in additional costs, it is not expected to have a major impact on South African wine producers.

This despite the EU being South Africa’s second largest export destination, according to Siobhan Thompson, CEO of Wines of South Africa, who added that wine sales in Europe should not be adversely affected as a result.

“The advocated increase in taxes would drive up prices, which might negatively affect the suppliers from all countries.

“Changes to labelling, however, might initially result in additional costs, but South African wine producers already have to add warnings, such as alcohol should not be consumed while pregnant or that drinking should be done in moderation, in South Africa and the UK.”

Such warnings would probably also not have a major impact on alcohol consumption, she said. “People generally know that alcohol abuse is bad for their health, therefore, societal changes are needed to address social drivers of harmful use.”

This followed a report by the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer, which the European Commission approved in December.

According to the report, there was no safe level of alcohol consumption, and voting was now underway on how the recommendations would be adopted, which could impact the labelling and the way in which these products were promoted, as well as pricing and the subsidising of production.

The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) held a meeting with the World Health Organisation earlier this month, in which it sought to exclude wine from these measures.

The OIV argued that it had always encouraged responsible drinking and had published many papers on the research into the effects of moderate wine consumption on health.

The EU was also in the process of making the nutritional labelling on drinks compulsory by 2023, similar to that on food products.

Thompson said this would require wine companies to store the nutritional data of their drinks on a central platform and to attach a QR code to their labels.

These codes would give consumers access to the central database to check the potentially unhealthy ingredients of a given foodstuff, in terms of calories, saturated fatty acids, simple sugars and sodium.

“The ultimate idea is to give consumers standardised information on ingredients, nutritional values, responsible drinking guidelines and sustainability details, including where and how the ingredients are grown and sourced,” she added.

In addition to these measures, the UK was proposing a new system to calculate the tax on alcoholic drinks based on their alcohol content.

Thompson explained that according to the proposed model, spirits and wine would be more harshly taxed than other categories of alcoholic beverages, reinforcing existing market distortions instead of rebalancing them.

It the proposals went ahead, this meant that the tax on some alcohol products was set to increase by up to 30%.

South Africa and other Southern Hemisphere wine producing countries had submitted proposals for a revision of these taxes as Southern Hemisphere wines had “naturally higher alcohol content” than Northern Hemisphere wines due to the warmer climate in these regions, Thompson said.

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