Over the years The Brewers of Europe, with support from its national associations and brewing companies, has played an important role in supporting initiatives to promote responsible consumption. Through the submission, implementation and reporting of commitments, brewers have also been leading actors, with well over one hundred commitments, in the EU’s Alcohol and Health Forum, which was set up under the 2006 EU Strategy to support Member States in reducing alcohol-related harm.
As the European Commission takes the time in 2017 to review the role of the EU in the fight against alcohol related harm and the place for the Forum in supporting this work, it is important both to look back at the results and to look at the areas for future collaborative activities.
There are now important EU data available showing important reductions in alcohol related harm since the adoption of the 2006 EU Strategy. For example, from 2006 to 2014:
• Drink drive fatalities across the EU’s 28 current Member States have fallen by an estimated 40%, based on figures from the European Commission and the European Transport Safety Council.
• Amongst 15-year olds in the EU weekly drinking has fallen by 48%, whilst numbers reporting drunkenness on two or more occasions also fell by 27%
Whilst there are inherent difficulties in identifying a direct causal link between these improvements and the individual actions supported by the brewing sector, the work under the Forum or even the existence of an EU Strategy, what is undeniable is that, since the adoption of the EU Strategy and the creation of its Forum, key harm indicators related to the misuse of alcohol have been moving in the right direction.
It is also clear that alcohol misuse and its related harms remain important issues in Europe and momentum needs to be maintained in order to ensure efforts are regularly reviewed and built upon. That is exactly the reason why:
• In February 2012, when already the leading committer to the Forum, The Brewers of Europe published the Beer Pledge in the European Parliament, as a framework to help drive further activities from the brewing sector.
• In April 2013, a 3-year partnership against drink driving, between The Brewers of Europe and the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), was presented to the Forum and then launched in the European Parliament later that year.
• In March 2015, the brewing sector, in a context where alcoholic beverages are exempt from the legal EU obligation to label ingredients and nutrition information, took it upon itself to progressively roll out this information voluntarily, effectively implementing the rules as they apply to non-alcoholic drinks and foodstuffs.
• End 2016, The Brewers of Europe renewed its partnership with the ETSC to support the SMART (Sober Mobility Across Road Transport) project for a further three years.
The roll-out of the consumer information commitment also enables the brewing sector to play its part in the broader issue of addressing chronic diseases and promotion of health lifestyles. Providing ingredients and nutrition information clearly enables consumers to take informed decisions on the place for responsible and moderate beer consumption within their own diet and lifestyle. With the publication in March 2017 of a European Commission report inviting “the industry to respond to consumers’ expectations and present within a year of adoption of this report a self-regulatory proposal [on ingredients and nutrition information] that would cover the entire sector of alcoholic beverages”, The Brewers of Europe will continue to encourage other sectors to follow the brewing sector’s lead whilst simultaneously continuing delivery against our own commitment.
This report also contains details of multiple initiatives that have been rolled out in partnership with governments, doctors’ groups, road safety authorities, parents, educators, the police, non-governmental organisations, consumer groups, indeed many parts of our society. What this shows is that The Brewers of Europe, its member associations and brewing companies at large have remained committed to the roll-out of the European Beer Pledge, taking seriously our responsibility to work together with others in the fight against alcohol misuse.
Our strong wish at The Brewers of Europe is for the EU to continue its strategy of tackling alcohol related harm by promoting responsibility and moderation, targeting alcohol misuse and focusing on those most vulnerable. In turn the Commission can depend on the relentless support of Europe’s brewers, at EU and local level, through targeted actions, conducted in partnership with other key stakeholders. The brewing sector also stands ready to further build upon the roll-out of the Pledge and investigate how to deepen its efforts through further specific pan-European activities under the different pillars in areas where the brewing sector has a clear and important role to play.