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Portugal says yeah

Mike Pomranz
August 20, 2018

Alcohol can be bad for you. You don’t need to drink an entire bottle of vodka to know that. At the same time, plenty of studies have shown that moderate consumption of alcohol, and wine in particular, can have benefits as well. So if wine labels are going to carry warnings about the potential negative impacts of alcohol, shouldn’t they tell both sides of the story? Officials in Portugal are saying that makes sense to them.

Portugal brought up the possibility of wine labels with multiple opinions as a response to Ireland’s plan to add larger health warnings to alcohol products. These would be similar to, but not quite as visceral as, the warnings on tobacco products. Ireland has already told the European Commission that it wants to add “prominent and conspicuous” cancer warnings to booze labels and has been patiently awaiting a ruling on whether such a policy would be valid under EU law. However, in a recent submission to the European Commission, Portugal objected to the plan, according to the Times of London, saying that only stating that alcohol gives people cancer would “distort reality." Instead, the labels should provide more “full and comprehensive” information about drinking.

“It should be noted that labels about cancer do not enable consumers to have a proportionate perspective of the effects of moderate alcohol consumption, thus it is considered that consumers must have complete information about the impact of alcohol consumption on health,” the submission said, according to The Drinks Business. The statement also reportedly pointed to other common activities that are known to raise cancer risks but don’t carry warnings, such as eating red meat or processed meat and “long shift work.”

Of course, the primary flaw in Portugal’s argument is that pointing out the benefits of something doesn’t negate the negatives. Speed limit signs wouldn’t benefit from the additional written perspective that “but going faster will help you arrive at your destination sooner.”

However, the European Commission has already shown a willingness to side with objections to Ireland’s proposal. Originally, the Irish plan suggested that warning labels should be required to make up at least one-third of the label. The Commission deemed that “disproportionate,” and this one-third element of the proposed guidelines was reportedly dropped, according to the Irish Times. That said, you might actually need at least one-third of the label dedicated to a warning if each bottle of wine needs to include a wide array of expert opinions on all of the pros and cons of having a glass of Douro Red.

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