Yesterday the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health & Food Safety Committee voted on the EU Alcohol strategy. The Committee rejected calls for Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) and acknowledged that the impetus for tackling alcohol-related harm should remain with member states.

Marina Yannakoudakis, Conservative MEP for London and co-author of the report, fought hard to ensure that the EU respected national gastronomic traditions and that it didn’t attempt to impose a single framework on 28 states. She also warned that any MUP mechanism would damage a competitive drinks industry and affect jobs.

Speaking on the report she said “it is clear that while we can associate an increase in cost with a reduction in consumption, there is no evidence to suggest that MUP would make the consumption of alcohol safer- if people are determined to drink, we risk encouraging a prohibition-style situation where people look to dubious but cheaper production sources. As a result of MUP, profits would shift from the drinks industry and onto either big supermarkets or illegal producers”

The report also calls on the EU to give greater support and assistance to member states, specifically calling on it to back national public information and health campaign initiatives. Alcohol remains the second largest risk factor for disease burden in Europe and more needs to be done to raise awareness of the effects of alcohol.

Outlandish calls for an extensive, red-tape driven labelling system of alcohol were rejected and instead MEPs asked the Commission to come up with a limited but more practical labelling proposal aimed at informing women of the dangers of drinking whilst pregnant.

Marina said “we need to improve how we get the message out about drinking. Excessive drinking can cause serious damage to the heart, liver, pancreas and digestive tract. We especially need to make sure that expectant mothers and younger people are aware of the facts of drinking and that there is better treatment in place to help those with alcohol—related problems”.

The report called for better counselling programmes, improved access to treatment, earlier diagnoses of alcohol-related problems and continuous support to families. Member States will retain flexibility on this issue and yesterday’s vote confirms there will be no one size fits all approach from Brussels.