Hopefully I can throw some light on ‘tying down what the EU stance/Directive is’ in terms of current legislation for ingredient listing and also on the possible future labelling of ingredients for Scotch Malt Whisky and other spirit drinks.
You are correct in saying that there is no mandatory requirement for the labelling of caramel colouring on a bottle of Scotch Malt Whisky. General rules on the labelling, presentation and advertising of foods are set out in Directive 2000/13/EC and these are implemented in Scotland by the Food Labelling Regulations 1996 (as amended)(FLR’s). Regulation 18(1)(f) of the FLR’s exempts any drink with an alcohol strength by volume of more than 1.2 per cent from the need to list ingredients. This exemption is subject to allergen labelling requirements i.e. it must be made clear on the label if the drink contains an allergenic ingredient. The list of 14 food allergens and their derivatives are set out in Schedule AA1 of the FLR’s.
“Ingredient” is defined in regulation 2 of the FLR’s and means “any substance including any additive, any food enzyme and any constituent of a compound ingredient, which is used in the preparation of a food and which is still present in the finished product, even in altered form, and a “compound ingredient” shall be composed of two or more such substances.”
General and nutrition labelling is currently under review and discussion is ongoing at both European Council and European Parliament level on a proposal for a Regulation on the Provision of Food Information to Consumers. As drafted, the proposal will extend ingredient listing (including nutrition information) to alcoholic drinks with the exception of beer, wine and spirits. If the proposal is agreed by the Council, Parliament and the Commission, these alcoholic drinks will be exempt for up to five years from the coming into force date of the new Regulation. During this period the European Commission will be required to draft a report examining the viability of including the provision of ingredient listing for these alcoholic drinks i.e. the Commission will have this obligation.
The first reading of the proposal is now completed and the reports should soon be available electronically. Second reading will begin early next year. As with a number of issues set out in the proposal, there are varying views on ingredient listing for alcoholic drinks and the outcome is still fluid.
The Department of environment food and rural affairs (Defra) represents the UK in Council Working Group discussions on the general labelling requirements set out in the proposal.
If you would like to keep track of the progress on the new draft Regulation we can keep you up to date via Interested Party letters.
Please let me know if would like this information and I will send out a form for you to complete – we need this because of consumer data protection rules.
I hope that this information is helpful.