Written Q&A to EU Commission – Counterfeit Sambuca and the spirit drinks Regulation

Just few days ago, on 31st October 2013, Linda McAvan (S&D) filed the following parliamentary question for written answer to the EU Commission:

E – 012362 – 13 Subject:  Sambuca and the spirit drinks regulation
I am writing further to the Commission’s answer to Written Question E-006892/2013.

Can the Commission clarify the legal status of coloured products bearing the name ‘sambuca’? Has the Commission discovered products that have been illegally labelled in this regard and, if so, what action has it taken

That question follows a former a former question E-006892/2013 (13th June 2013), filed by the Italian members Giancarlo Scottà and Mara Bizzotto (EFD):

“After the scandal of powdered wines marketed as true Italian wines, foreign imitators have launched a new coloured drink, with no aniseed, which is passed off as Sambuca. This aniseed liqueur is a traditional Italian product and its quality differs significantly from the alcoholic beverage produced and sold in several Member States. Although Regulation (EC) No 110/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council, dated 15 January 2008, allows the name Sambuca to be used only for colourless alcoholic beverages, with a natural anethole content of between 1 and 2 grammes per litre and a minimum alcoholic strength of 38%, products have been put on the market which bear the same name but do not comply with these requirements.

— Is the Commission aware of these facts?

— What steps does it intend to take at Community level to stop the illegal trade in such products and to ensure that Member States introduce sanctions to curb these abusive practices?

— What measures does it deems necessary to protect the consumers’ right to information given that they are likely to be deceived about the true nature of the product?

— Given the increase in cases of counterfeit Italian wines and spirits, how does it intend to protect Italian exports in order to avoid Italian producers incurring financial losses and having their image harmed by counterfeit products?”

The Commission answered that:

Answer given by Mr Cioloș on behalf of the Commission
The definition of the category sambuca, included in point 38 of Annex II to Regulation (EC) No 110/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of geographical indications of spirit drinks, contains a specific provision according to which ‘Sambuca is a colourless aniseed-flavoured liqueur…’. Consequently, the absence of colouring ingredients is one of the essential conditions for the conformity of the product with the definition of sambuca.

The Spirit Drinks Regulation also establishes general rules on the use of the names of categories of spirit drinks as sales denominations, as part of a compound term or as an allusion to spirit drinks categories, in order to prevent deceptive practices and ensure a high level of consumer protection.

The Commission has been alerted on trade of Sambuca which could be in breach of the relevant EU definition and is currently analysing the available documentation. If it appears that the product at issue is illegally labelled, the Commission will inform the concerned Member States.

However, Member States are responsible for the control of spirit drinks and for taking the necessary measures to ensure compliance of spirit drinks with EU rules.

So, it’s clear that a problem exists and the Commission is aware of this counterfeiting activity, but the Member States are in charge for taking measure to esnure the compliance wht EC Reg. 110/2008. The question is: want they stop this fraud? We’ll see, as well as what the Commission will answer to the last question.

Also in Italy it’s possible to see on the shelves several types of coloured Sambuca…

4 thoughts on “Written Q&A to EU Commission – Counterfeit Sambuca and the spirit drinks Regulation

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