MEP toasts common sense on EU alcohol strategy

11-Mar-2014 @ 16:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Conservative MEPs are savouring success today after the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health & Food Safety Committee voted for a balanced and proportionate EU strategy on alcohol.

The committee rejected calls for minimum unit pricing of drinks (MUP) and acknowledged that the impetus for tackling alcohol-related harm should remain with individual countries.

Marina Yannakoudakis, Conservative MEP for London and co-author of the report under consideration, fought hard to ensure EU respect for differing national gastronomic traditions and to prevent attempts impose a single framework on 28 states. She also warned that any minimum price mechanism would damage a competitive drinks industry and affect jobs.

She said: “There is no evidence to suggest that MUP would make the consumption of alcohol safer. Instead, if people are determined to drink, we risk encouraging a prohibition-style problem of people looking to dubious but cheaper production sources. As a result of MUP, profits would shift from the drinks industry and onto either big supermarkets or illegal producers”

The report also calls on the EU to give greater support and assistance to individual countries in backing public information and health campaigns. Alcohol remains the second largest risk-factor for disease in Europe and more needs to be done to raise awareness of the effects of alcohol.

Outlandish calls for an extensive, bureaucratic labelling scheme were rejected, however, and instead MEPs asked the Commission to come up with a limited, practical labelling proposals aimed at informing women of the dangers of drinking while pregnant.

The report also seeks better counselling programmes, improved access to treatment, earlier diagnoses of alcohol-related problems and continuous support to families. However, individual countries will retain flexibility on this issue and the vote confirms avoids a "one size fits all" approach from Brussels.

Mrs Yannakoudakis said “We need to improve how we get the message out about drinking. Excessive drinking can cause serious damage to the heart, liver, pancreas and digestive tract, but we need to tackle it in the right way.

"We especially need to make sure that expectant mothers and younger people are aware of the facts of drinking and that there is better treatment in place to help those with alcohol-related problems.”

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