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European Union will not enforce calorie labels on Wine (Yet)

The European Commission has decided to grant wine producers in the EU an extra year to develop industry guidelines to include nutrition, ingredient and calorie information on wine labels.

For now, the EU will not adopt rules to force producers to provide more information on their labels, and will instead encourage players in the wine industry to voluntarily include the information on product packaging.

EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis said in a statement that the Commission's decision "supports the right of people in the European Union to be fully informed about what they drink", despite choosing not to impose a mandatory labeling scheme on the industry. Andriukaitis explained that voluntary labeling initiatives have already been implemented by many EU producers.

In the EU, beverages that contain more than 1.2 percent alcohol are exempt from food labeling rules. As a result, beverage alcohol producers don't have to include information such as calories and ingredients on their products. The only exceptions to the rule are ingredients that are considered to be allergens, such as sulphites.

A report by FoodIngredientsFirst quoted from a statement provided by Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) chief executive Miles Beale in response to the decision, in which Beale expressed his support for the ruling.

“People who want to know more about what they are drinking are very capable of going online and finding out for themselves,” Beale said. He noted that the WSTA has been providing information about alcohol calories in products on its website for the past two years.

Conversely, Monique Goyens, director general of the European Consumer Organization, is not convinced that a voluntary labeling scheme will be effective.

“We doubt that voluntary initiatives will bridge the unacceptable information gap between alcoholic and other drinks,” Goyens told FoodIngredientsFirst. "[Mandatory rules] are the only way forward if we want consumers across the EU to be [fully] informed about what their wine or vodka contains."

Even without formal regulation, the practice of voluntarily including calorie information on wine labels is gaining traction in the industry. In 2014, UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's made a commitment to include calorie information on all of its branded wines by 2016. Competing chain Tesco stated at the time that they had no plans to voluntarily include calorie information on wine packaging.

The EU Commission for Health and Food Safety will revisit the issue of beverage alcohol labeling in 2018.

Nathan Munn | Global Wine & Spirits