European parliament passes spirits regulations

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union

European Commission amendments designed to shake up and protect
spirit production within the bloc were yesterday adopted by the
European parliament, outlining new requirements for manufacturers
in the bloc.

The regulations will make a number of amendments to existing practices including; defining individual spirits like vodka, technical changes, World Trade Organization (WTO) requirements and the EU's system of geographical indications. Initial proposals for the regulations were forwarded in December 2005 by the Commission, in a bid to protect standards and intellectual property within spirits manufacture to ensure all member states comply with them. There has been contention over some of the amendments, most notably over whether to allow production of vodka derived from materials other than potatoes or cereals to keep the name as long as these ingredients were listed on the label. This compromise proposal, which requires re-labelling for brands such as Smirnoff, was eventually passed by parliament in June to widespread - if somewhat cautious - approval. This agreement is part of the wider amendments to spirits manufacture, which was passed yesterday at the first reading of the bill, with the measures set to be implemented within a matter of weeks, according to a Commission spokesperson. According to the commission, the new regulation will also safeguard the reputation of the bloc's spirit brands by taking into account both traditional production methods, and technological innovations where there is a link to improvements in quality. "The definitions continue to respect the traditional quality practices but are updated where previous definitions were lacking or insufficient or where such definitions could be improved in the light of technological developments,"​ the Commission said. The issue of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade outlined by the WTO are also included in the bill. EU agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel said reaching an agreement on the regulation at the first reading, particularly considering the issue of spirits definition, was a major achievement for the industry. "I am pleased that we were able to reach a pragmatic compromise on the definition of vodka, which will allow producers of this important product to continue going about their business,"​ she stated. "I think this new regulation will help our producers build on their success and make things clearer for consumers."

Related topics: Markets, Beer, Wine, Spirits, Cider

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