Eurocrats call time on light ale (Daily Mail 11 May 2005)
Bureaucrats in Brussels want to force British brewers to change the name of light ale. They claim drinkers could be misled into thinking the beer is a low-calorie or low-alcohol ‘lite’ drink… Opposing the move is London Tory MEP John Bowis, who said yesterday: “It is totally intolerable that a traditional British ale should be threatened by a piece of bureaucracy like this.”
Hands off our light ale (Daily Express 12 May 2005)
A battle was brewing in Brussels last night to protect the name of light ale from Euro-legislators. New laws are being drafted to crack down on misleading descriptions on food and drink labels. And the European Commission fears that the word “light” could suggest the product is less fattening. Conservative MEP John Bowis is leading moves to vote the plans down… “We are fighting this because light ale is likely to be caught in the net, even though the use of the word “light” in that case relates to the colour and character of the beer, not to any claims that it is less fattening.”
The term light ale refers to the colour of the beer – that’s why it is also known as pale ale as opposed to dark ale – and not its alcohol or calorie content. Thus, the Commission does not consider light ale to be a health or nutrition claim. In this particular case, however, it would be up to the British government to determine whether light ale fell within the scope of the legislation, still to be approved by member states (including the UK) and the European Parliament.
The European Commission is keen to ensure that consumers are better informed about the food and drink they buy, and are not misled by unscrupulous manufacturers who slap misleading slogans on their products. For example, the term “90% fat free” is misleading because it implies the product is low fat, when the fat content (10%) is in fact rather high. So, too, is the claim that a product will “reduce calorie intake” – especially if you then eat cake. These claims would indeed be banned under the proposal, while others, such as those indicating a product is good for your heart, will need be backed up scientifically, a move supported by industry and consumer groups alike.