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WSTA concerned over back-label warnings

Published:  23 July, 2008

Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), has warned that Finnish plans for health warnings on back labels would encourage other national governments to follow suit.

Authorities in Finland plan for drinks labels to caution against the potential harm to general health from consuming alcoholic products, with another warning citing the risk of foetal damage during pregnancy.

According to Beadles, such labelling, following that implemented in France, will encourage national governments to push for similar legislation and significantly add to the supply chain costs for importing companies'. He warned that drinks companies could pull out of distributing to Finland.

The WSTA is lobbying the UK government to put pressure on Finland to withdraw these plans, and have 10 weeks left of a three-month submissions period to do so.

The commission has to think about labelling in its entirety,' added Beadles. There is an increasing amount of labelling legislation and only so much space on the back of a bottle on which to put all the information. The commission has to take consumers into account. They want to read what food the wine might go with, not a muddled blurb.'

However, it looks increasingly likely that the Finish authorities will implement the new laws. According to Pekka Puska, director general of the Finnish National Public Health Institute, The consumption of alcohol and its attendant problems have increased. We want both the EU and the World Health Organisation to do more on alcohol at international level.'

Despite the WSTA's concerns, Pernod Ricard has decided to add warnings to the back labels of all of its products to highlight the risk to pregnant women of consuming alcohol. The company also has launched several responsible drinking campaigns, with a particular focus on road safety: in France, the road safety charter, as agreed with public authorities, is to be applied; in China, preventative measures on drink-driving have been implemented; and in Mexico, a TV campaign - You either drink or drive' - has been run.

Internationally, Pernod Ricard has vowed to apply the same rules requiring responsible advertising of its products, whether via billposting, TV, cinema or the press.