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Czech Brewers Warn Against Restricting Consumer Rights

Prague, September 1, 2006 – Czech brewers are warning Czech consumers against the potential impact of proposals that DG SANCO, the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General of the European Commission, intends to announce in September. This institution is preparing a proposal to regulate the consumption of beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages, which would impose a directive on the entire European Union, irrespective of national or local cultures. DG SANCO’s measure is supported by the results of the “Anderson” study, drafted by a British institute fighting for total abstinence. The directive would apply to all EU member states, regardless of differences, and contain proposals for procedures relating to taxes that would bring about a maximal excise tax hike; for placing warnings on the labels of all types of alcohol, including those with low alcohol contents; for legislation confining the purchase of alcoholic beverages to a selected network of licensed sales points; and, last but not least, for outlawing advertising and sponsorship activities by alcoholic beverage producers.

By contrast, Czech brewers, together with their colleagues from the Brewers of Europe (BoE), are warning that DG SANCO’s proposals, are improper and, moreover, based on conclusions of a study that was subjective from the outset, i.e., biased in light of the institute that drafted the study. In comparison, BoE is offering a report by a consulting firm, the Weinberg Group, which has studied the most recent findings regarding alcohol consumption. The content of the Weinberg report comprises an objective look at the latest scientifically founded views of alcohol consumption in Europe. This study was subsequently subjected to intense scrutiny by a panel of renowned independent experts, chiefly physicians and scientists, who deem it balanced and, by and large, objective.

“We are fully aware of the social, societal and economic problems that arise with excessive alcohol consumption. Which is why we have been steadfastly endeavoring to support projects promoting moderate consumption of beer, which we, on the contrary, believe to be beneficial to human health. That stance of ours is founded on conclusions of studies by numerous physicians and health institutes,” said Ing. František Krakeš, chairman of the Czech Beer and Malt Association. “At the same time, we reject policies that do not take into account cultural and historical differences between particular countries and nations, and those that would impose directives, bans and other restrictive measures. We conjecture that such measures fail to take into account consumers’ rights—everyone must be given the opportunity to decide for themselves how much and what they will consume, naturally with respect to the principles of reasonable consumption,” concluded Ing. František Krakeš.

Czech Beer and Malt Association members adopted the Code of Ethics for Responsible Brewers, which was initiated in 2003 based on the Responsible Brewers Initiative. For beer producers, the Code means above all responsibility in the areas of marketing, advertising and promotion in general. In practice, that means above all combating beer consumption by minors and drivers of motorized vehicles and inappropriate forms of advertising beer.

Among other things, the Weinberg report examined the relationship between alcohol consumption and cultural differences in various European countries, and between overall alcohol consumption and drinking habits that leads to violent tendencies; it studied the risks and advantages of moderate alcohol consumption; and it further probed the harmful social consequences of alcohol consumption, as well as the influence of alcohol on youth. Provided alcohol is consumed in moderation, the overall benefits of consumption are notable. Experts also addressed concerns about the growing tendency to attribute the results of excessive use of alcohol to all types of alcohol consumption, which could consequently lead to developing improper EU policies relating to alcohol. The panel discussion participants also reached a consensus that there is insufficient evidence for the claim that alcohol is the main cause of social problems such as crime or irresponsible behavior by minors. Another of the recommendations is to have the political initiatives relating to alcohol drafted in a broader context, with the aim of understanding the social, cultural and economical forces that have driven the recent pressure to enact policies restricting alcohol.

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