The impact of EC legislation in the labelling and advertising field is felt strongly by the manufacturers and distributors of alcoholic drinks sold in the EU.
A wholesale reform of the food presentation field is currently ongoing and the new rules will directly affect the alcoholic beverage industry. This reform includes the imminent enactment of a new EC Regulation on the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuff which (i) groups together the rules on labelling and those on nutrition labelling, and (ii) for the first time addresses the issue of alcoholic beverages.
Recent developments have resulted in new rules for spirits and a dramatic change of position on wine labelling. The EC regulators have introduced strict rules on nutrition and health claims and further action is expected. The reform in the wine sector has just begun. Detailed rules on wine labelling will come into force in 2009. Soon, there will be new rules dealing with the definition, description and presentation of aromatized wines, wine-based drinks and wine-product cocktails.
In the advertising of alcoholic beverages field, the EU’s strategy is to support Member States to reduce alcohol related harm. The European Commission offers the industry a last chance to self-regulate the advertising of alcoholic drinks in the EU in an effective manner. Compliance with these self imposed rules will be a key factor when considering their efficiency. Failure to do so would most likely conduct to legislative proposals at the EU level.
Significant sanctions may be applied for failure to comply with the beverage presentation rules. Such sanctions may vary from one Member State to another, but could include fines, a prohibition on placing the products on the market or the removal of products from the market altogether. In addition, considerable costs could result from the obligation to modify all the labels of a category of drinks if these labels do not comply with the conditions set out by law.