Updated November 28, 2023
The European Union has come back with clarifications on the rules surrounding E-labels for nutritional and ingredient declaration. Here are some of the key points.
On November 24, 2023 the EU published questions and answers on the implementation of new EU wine labeling provisions here: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:C_202301190
No links allowed
All links to the winery website are disallowed. It was previously thought that a link to the producer’s home page would be allowed, but the EU has explicitly come back to call out that any link is forbidden.
As a result of this clear direction, we are removing all the links to the websites for new, published, and unpublished e-labels.
(37) [Q] Would the inclusion on the label of a link to a winery’s e-commerce website considered a marketing purpose? [A] The inclusion of an e-commerce website or a winery website is undoubtedly considered a ‘marketing purpose’.
QR Text on the Back label
There must be text next to the QR code clearly indicating what the QR code is for. This text must contain the word “ingredients”. Suggestions are “ingredients”, “ingredients and nutritional values” or “ingredients / nutritional values”. It is not enough to simply use a QR code with an “i” symbol inside of it.
(38) [A] Generic terms or symbols (like an ‘i’) are not sufficient to fulfil the requirements of this provision. Where the information provided by electronic means (identified by e.g. a QR code) is the list of ingredients, a heading, as referred to in Article 18(1) of the FIC Regulation, must be used, in the same way as the current practice used for the paper labels for other food (i.e. containing the word ‘ingredients’).
A number of other clarifications have confirmed the common thoughts of EU legal experts, they include:
December 8th deadline
The deadline has been clarified as expected.
All wines with the 2024 vintage and beyond need to comply.
To be considered “produced” the wine must reach the properties required for the product in accordance with the EU market regulations. This includes alcohol, acidity, and in the case of sparkling, pressure. For sparkling wine that is produced through a second fermentation, this fermentation must be completed.
(4) [A] As an example, ‘Wine’ (category 1) means the product obtained exclusively from the total or partial alcoholic fermentation of fresh grapes, whether or not crushed, or of grape must.
One QR for many wines is not allowed
Different wines can’t use the same QR code.
(34) [A] ….the link of each particular label should unambiguously lead to display specific information for one or several batches of one single reference wine product, in a clearly differentiated way and providing a simple access for consumers to the right information….
E-label must stay accessible
The E-labels must be online for as long as the wine is still consumable.
(40) [A] …it should be available at least along the time period that specific category of wine product is expected to remain suitable for consumption in normal condition of storage…
Multiple QR on the back label
You can have two QR codes, another for marketing, but there must be absolutely no confusion as to which one is which.
(31) [A] Any use of additional QR codes should not mislead or create confusion to consumers and should not detract any space from the one available for compulsory particulars, which would include the codes providing access to compulsory information by electronic means.
GS1 link is allowed
The QS1 link supported by Bottlebooks, is allowed in question and answer 32.
Answers that left more confusion
Two topics remained unclear after the Q and A.
Wines imported before December 8th don’t need a QR code, however those imported after but were “produced” still might need one.
(5) [Q] How would the labelling rules be verified, in particular concerning the ‘produced’? [A] ….As regards imported wines, wines imported before this date are considered as produced before and therefore eligible to this exemption.
Any information that does not identify the product, provide the ingredients list or nutritional table, might not be allowed. The EU provided an ambiguous answer to a clear and direct question.
(36) [Q] What is the interpretation of the European Commission about the concept of ‘for marketing purposes’? To what extent can the inclusion of a claim in the electronic label (e.g. about sustainability, the origin of the product, or certification, etc.) be considered optional information to be legitimately included in the label? And when can this claim be considered ‘marketing’ instead?
[A] Article 119(5)(b) of the amended CMO Regulation refers to ‘information intended for sales or marketing purposes’. This should be interpreted as presenting the compulsory information in a neutral environment which ensures that the attention of the reader is not engaged towards fostering the purchase of the product, be it directly (e.g. through website links, promotion, indication of sales points, etc.) or indirectly (e.g. through designs adding visual or sonic appeal, phrases or statements that may appeal the consumer, commercial language or other commercial strategies that aim at influencing the purchasing behavior and decision of consumers).
The provision of other additional voluntary information on the label (e-labels included) is regulated by Article 118 of the CMO Regulation, according to which labelling of grapevine products may not be supplemented by any additional particulars unless they satisfy the requirements of the FIC Regulation. Notably, Article 36(2) of the FIC Regulation stipulates that food information provided on a voluntary basis shall not mislead the consumer, as referred to in Article 7 of that Regulation; shall not be ambiguous or confusing for the consumer; and shall, where appropriate, be based on the relevant scientific data. In addition, Article 37 of the FIC Regulation provides that such information shall not be displayed to the detriment of the space available for mandatory food information.
We are not expecting any more from the EU in terms of clarifications. The next guidance will come from the local country authorities.