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“EU must intervene to stop Belgian decree on alcohol advertising”

Federvini warning, concerned about Belgian proposal to introduce a health warning in all advertising messages, including labels
Micaela Pallini, Federvini president

The Kingdom of Belgium's decree, which, as reported by WineNews in recent days, severely restricts advertising and communication, from a country that is at the heart of European politics, is beginning to worry beverage companies, and would likely have effects far more far-reaching than the widely reported vinceda of the health warnigs label introduced in recent months by Ireland. Making its voice heard now is Federvini, which recalls how “in January 2024, the Kingdom of Belgium notified the European Commission in the framework of the Tris procedure of a decree that, on the one hand, introduces important forms of protection with regard to minors and, on the other hand, authorizes the Belgian Ministry of Health to develop a health warning that will have to appear in all forms of advertising of alcoholic beverages”.
“The industry’s commitment to protect minors is not in question”, says Federvini president Micaela Pallini, “we remain convinced that efforts must be made to counter all forms of promotion of alcoholic beverages to minors, just as the commitment to combat alcohol abuse is maximum, as demonstrated by the “No Binge” initiative, promoted by Federvini in collaboration with several Italian universities and in European initiatives such as Wine in Moderation. However, we cannot fail to denounce the risks of a measure such as the Belgian one, and for this reason we hope that Italy will intervene decisively and punctually in the envisaged forum, through a circumstantiated opinion within the scheduled deadline of April 22”.
On the one hand, in fact, the broad definition that is given of “advertising”, Federvini points out, makes the scope of application of the Belgian rule almost boundless, with the risk that even a label or typical elements of the presentation of an alcoholic beverage could fall under the definition of advertising and, therefore, obliged to carry the message on health warnings; on the other hand, the health warning, the content and form of which will be decided by the Belgian Ministry of Health, leave Italian producers of wines, aperitifs, bitters, liqueurs and spirits made in Italy in total ambiguity having no element to be able to evaluate the measure as a whole, with the aggravating factor of not being able to resort to any other equivalent message. After the case of the health warnings introduced by Ireland, which were widely contested in Europe and beyond, and in light of this new Belgian initiative, Federvini stresses the importance that no individual national initiatives are taken that are not aligned at the European level because such unilateral actions could undermine regulatory harmonization and the overall effectiveness of EU measures.
“If the advertising of alcoholic beverages throughout the European Union is a subject that is already regulated”, recalls Micaela Pallini, president of Federvini, “in Italy, with the code of self-discipline of commercial communication of the Advertising Self-Discipline Institute, first, and with the guidelines promoted by the Federation itself, then, we wanted to write in black and white that any form of direct and indirect advertising is forbidden towards minors. But this is not the point”, the Federvini president continues, “because the real risk behind the Belgian measure is that in a few years we will find ourselves with a health message along the lines of the Irish one!”

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