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Wines

Volume 472: debated on Thursday 21 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the policy of the Food Standards Agency is on the importation and sale of low alcohol wine. (185800)

The enforcement for wine sector regulations in the United Kingdom is carried out by the Food Standards Agency.

Wines from other member states may be brought into the UK provided they comply with European Community (EC) regulations on winemaking. Naturally lower alcohol wines can be produced and sold in member states. However, Council Regulation 1493/1999 does not allow the reduction of alcohol in a wine. There is, however, provision for member states to allow experimental winemaking practices but any wines produced can only be sold in the member state of production.

Wines from third countries imported into the EC are in general subject to the same rules on winemaking as wines produced in member states. The United States of America is one of a number of countries that has an agreement with the EC which allows wines from the USA which meet their domestic regulations to be imported into the EC. This agreement includes the use of alcohol reduction techniques.

The agency favours a regime that recognises there is no threat to consumer health by using alcohol reduction processes. However a new category for reduced alcohol wines is required to be included in to EC regulations, to avoid misleading description and potential confusion with mainstream wines.

The European Union wine regime is currently being reviewed and it is expected to introduce a fast track procedure for approval of novel winemaking processes such as spinning cone and reverse osmosis which can reduce the alcohol content of wine.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health for what reason British wine producers are restricted by EU rules in selling lower alcohol wines in the UK; and if he will make a statement. (186856)

Naturally lower alcohol wines can be produced and sold in the United Kingdom. Council Regulation 1493/1999 does not allow the reduction of alcohol in a wine. There is, however, provision in the regulations to allow experimental winemaking practices but any wines produced can only be sold in the member state of production.

The enforcement for wine sector regulations in the UK is carried out by the Food Standards Agency. The agency favours a more liberal regime, recognising the potential benefits to consumers of using alcohol reduction processes. However this would require an amendment to European Commission regulations which currently make this practice illegal, on the grounds that this would mislead consumers and there would be potential for confusion with mainstream wines.