Daily Archives: 10/03/2015

MEPs push for alcohol strategy on the EU’s health agenda

EU News and policy debates website EurActiv featured a news story last month looking at how MEP’s were pushing for alcohol strategy to be on the EU’s health agenda.  This is progress on what is happening here where it is still considered primarily a law and order issue ……

The members of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) on Thursday (29 January) voted on a draft motion for a resolution on the EU’s alcohol strategy.

The EU has tried to reduce alcohol-related harm in Europe by publishing a strategy in 2006 to help national governments, and other stakeholders, to coordinate their action.

However, the alcohol strategy was not updated by the European Commission in 2013, as originally intended.

The Juncker Commission, which took office on 1 November 2014, has so far not indicated that a new strategy is being considered. But leading MEPs from the ENVI Committee, such as the Socialists & Democrats’s (S&D) Glenis Willmott, say that the Commission has not given a satisfactory reason for why the review of the alcohol strategy wasn’t published last year as promised. 

Industry association Brewers of Europe said in a statement it was backing the current alcohol strategy to support member states in reducing alcohol-related harm.

>> Read: Government, industry want minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland

The external evaluation of the current EU strategy was extremely positive, concluding that the priorities and approach remained relevant, whilst also proposing a strengthening of the existing mechanisms. The Brewers of Europe supports this call for a reinvigoration of the current strategy rather than a totally new approach.

“The current EU Strategy focuses on alcohol misuse, addressing the problems caused by harmful drinking patterns and targeting the vulnerable minority who either drink to excess or should not drink at all. Moderate beer consumption by healthy adults can be fully compatible with a balanced lifestyle, highlighting the importance of promoting responsible drinking behaviours,” they said in a statement. 

>> Read: MEP Willmott: Commission is dragging its feet on alcohol policy

“The Brewers of Europe has supported this Strategy throughout, not just through words but also through actions, having filed one third of the 300 commitments to action made in the EU Alcohol and Health Forum,” they continued.

The beer sector also reaffirmed its commitment in 2012 with the adoption of a European Beer Pledge that focuses on consumer information, marketing self-regulation and campaigns against alcohol misuse.

Though a new report suggests that alcohol consumption has decreased significantly over the past decades, an average adult (aged 15+ years) in the EU consumes 12.5 litres of pure alcohol each year, or nearly three drinks a day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated in a 2012-report. This is more than double the world average. 

Positions: 

spiritsEUROPE, which represents producers of spirits drinks at the EU, said in a statement:  

“We supported the adoption of the existing European Strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm adopted in 2006. Since then, associations and company members of spiritsEUROPE have implemented more than 300 campaigns aimed at reducing drink-driving, underage drinking,  drinking during pregnancy, drinking at work place, server training, excessive drinking leading to chronic diseases and accidents etc. The vast majority of these, in partnership with local stakeholders. We look forward to the debate for a renewed strategy. We hope that debate will highlight the importance of a harm reduction approach focusing on risky drinking behaviours as set in the first strategy that is delivering positive results. Changing consumer behaviour needs time and the involvement of all stakeholders in society.”

I don’t want to get into a debate about our membership in the EU but part of me wishes we were if it meant the correct health-focused approach to alcohol abuse issues.  Bit of a dry news story (excuse the pun) but need to keep an eye on what is going on in Europe 🙂

Edited to add: And it would seem that the House of Lords agree with the MEPs too!!

Lords report calls for stronger EU strategy to address alcohol harms

A House of Lords committee report has called for key EU level action to reduce alcohol-related harms, rather than relying soley on efforts by member states.

The report highlights that there has been no EU alcohol strategy in place since 2012 when the six year strategy expired. However it says a meaningful strategy needs to focus on actions the EU itself can take, including reforming of alcohol tax structures and labeling legislation.

The report calls for future EU action to take a ‘health in all policies’ approach reflected through policies on related areas such as food labeling, cross-border marketing and taxation. It argues for ‘measures at population level intended to reduce overall levels of consumption’ to provide the over-arching context for effective national policies. On minimum unit pricing, it says that should Scotland overcome the current legal challenge, the rest of the UK should monitor and implement it should it prove successful.

The Committee received evidence from an extensive list of stakeholders, but repeatedly found ‘diametrically opposing views of the advocates for public health, and those concerned with the manufacture, marketing and advertising of alcoholic drinks’, despite often citing the same sources for their arguments.