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Alcoholic beverages, the EU Parliament cancels the proposed warning on the label on alcohol and cancer risks

On 15.2.22 the European Parliament canceled the proposal to insert a warning on the label of alcoholic beverages on the correlation between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer.

MEPs have thus denied the conclusions of their own BECA commission (Beating Cancer Plan), to support the LOBBY di Big alcohol and wine producers.

Alcohol and the risk of cancer, the reason for the warnings

Changes proposals for the labeling of spirits (> 1,2% alc. vol.), including wine, provided for the introduction of a warning (warning labels) on the risks of developing tumors.

The Higher Institute of Health attributes alcohol to be the cause of approximately 180.000 cases and 92.000 cancer deaths were caused by alcohol in Europe in 2018.

11% approximately of all alcohol-induced cancers are attributed to 'moderate' daily consumption, which does not exceed one bottle of beer (500ml), 2 glasses of wine (200ml) or 60ml of spirits per day. The risks increase significantly as the amount of alcohol consumed increases. (1)

A favor to the business

Despite the scientific evidence, the European Parliament has embraced the thesis of the alcoholic beverage industry. For to assert that 'there is a difference between harmful and moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages and it is not the consumption itself that constitutes a risk factor for cancer'.

On this premise, Parliament has eliminated any reference to the introduction of health warnings on the label. The only concession to the scientific evidence on the correlation between alcohol consumption and cancer is the invitation to improve the labeling of alcoholic beverages by introducing information on moderate and responsible consumption of alcohol.

The revision of the BECA report

In the approved version from the European Parliament, the BECA 'reportstresses that harmful use of alcohol is a risk factor for many different types of cancer and asks, among others:

- promotion of actions for reduce and prevent alcohol-related harm as part of a revised EU alcohol strategy, including a European zero alcohol strategy for minors,

- better information to consumers improving the labeling of alcoholic beverages in order to include moderate and responsible consumption information and introduction of themandatory indication of ingredients and nutritional information,

- Ban on advertising and sponsorship of alcohol at sporting events when mainly minors participate in such events'. (2)

Big alcohol vince

The decision of the European Parliament is in line with what was requested by OIV, the International Organization of Vine and Wine, in early February, in a meeting with the WHO in Geneva to discuss the role of wine in alcoholic beverage policies and in order to distinguish it from other industrial drinks.

Several associations wine and beer consider introducing a warning labels on alcohol, the harbinger of great damage to the sector. And they recall the various studies that indicate that responsible and moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages - 100-200 ml per day - can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

Fermented drinks

There are two types alcoholic, fermented and distilled drinks. Fermented drinks are those that come from fruit or cereals, where the sugar is fermented and transformed into alcohol by the action of yeasts. The most common fermented drinks are wine and beer:

- the wine it is the product of the fermentation of fresh grapes or must. With the addition of alien sugars, in countries where the 'sugaring'and also in Italy, for the'foaming'of sparkling wines. Its alcohol content generally varies between 11 and 14,5 degrees. And, among other things, his is possible dealcoholization, partial or total,

- beer it is obtained from malt, obtained from the transformation of barley and other cereals. With the addition, sometimes and unfortunately, of alien sugars and additives. To get the bitter taste, hops are added. His alcohol content it usually fluctuates between 4-6 degrees. Moreover, it too available in non-alcoholic version.


Distilled drinks they are obtained by eliminating part of the water contained in fermented drinks by means of distillation.

The fundamental principle of this action is that alcohol evaporates at 78 degrees and water at 100 degrees. Distillates therefore have more alcohol, between 30 and 50 degrees, than fermented drinks.

Alcoholic strength

The gradation alcohol content is expressed in degrees and measures the volume of absolute alcohol in 100 cc, i.e. the percentage of alcohol contained in a drink. In a 13 degree wine, for example, 13 cc out of 100 cc are of absolute alcohol, 13%. The alcoholic strength is expressed in vol%.

From the health point of view it is useful to determine the grams of absolute ethanol. To calculate the quantity in an alcoholic drink, simply multiply the degrees by the density of the alcohol (0,8 g / ml):

330 ml beer (one can), 5% vol ≈ 13.2 g of pure ethanol

125ml of wine (one glass), 13% vol. ≈ 13 g of pure ethanol

40 ml spirits (one glass), 50% vol. ≈ 16 g of pure ethanol. (3)

Alcoholic unit

To facilitate the calculation of alcohol consumed an ad hoc unit of measurement is adopted, the alcoholic unit (AU). However, this varies from one country to another. In Italy the alcoholic unit (AU) corresponds to 12 grams of ethanol. In Spain it is 10g and in the UK it is 8g.

Provisional conclusions

Regardless of political decisions to prioritize the interests of Big alcohol to the prevention of serious public health risks, it should be emphasized that science is unanimous - beyond scientific fraud and conflicts of interest - in stating that there is no safe level of consumption of alcohol.

Isis Consuelo Sanlucar Chirinos

Cover design taken from Terra Hominis 



(2) European Parliament, press release. EP calls for action: strengthening Europe in the fight against cancer. 17.2.22

(3) Infodrugs. Alcohol - Concepto de Grado Alcohólico

(4) Ministerio de Sanidad. Alcohol consumption limits. 2020.

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Graduated in food engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, she is attending the master's degree in 'Food Safety Lawyer and Consultant' at Alma Mater, University of Bologna.

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