07MOSCOW563, NEW HEALTH WARNING LABEL FOR WINE AND SPIRITS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW563 2007-02-08 12:42 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO1795
RR RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB
DE RUEHMO #0563/01 0391242
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081242Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7301
INFO RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHDC
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC 4603
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2148
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 1887
RUEHZN/EST COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 000563 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR OES/IHA AND EUR/RUS 
USAID FOR GH, E&E 
HHS FOR OGHA 
USDA FOR FAS/OCRA FLEMING, THOMAS OGA LUCHOK 
STATE PASS USTR FOR MOLNAR, KLEIN, DWOSKIN AND OWEN 
BERLIN ALSO FOR LABOR COUNSELOR HAGEN 
 
E.O.  12958: N/A 
TAGS: TBIO EAGR ETRD SOCI RS
SUBJECT: NEW HEALTH WARNING LABEL FOR WINE AND SPIRITS 
 
REFS: A. 06 Moscow 9824 
      B. 06 Moscow 12348 
 
MOSCOW 00000563  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
THIS CABLE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED.  PLEASE PROTECT 
ACCORDINGLY. 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY:  A new label for bottles of wine, vodka, and other 
spirits warns consumers of the dangers of alcohol consumption by 
certain vulnerable groups, including minors, pregnant women, and 
nursing mothers.  The government is delaying enforcement of the new 
law and giving producers and distributors time to comply, which 
should avoid most of the chaotic supply disruptions that followed 
last summer's implementation of a new excise stamp system for wine 
and spirits.  From a health perspective, the new warning label is 
unlikely to have any effect on drinking habits or contribute to 
improving public health, and, from a trade perspective, it has led 
to confusion among retailers and domestic and foreign producers. 
END SUMMARY. 
 
2. (U) As of February 1, producers of wine, vodka and other spirits 
must affix a label to all bottles warning consumers about the 
dangers of alcohol consumption to minors, pregnant women, and 
nursing mothers, and those with diseases of the nervous and 
digestive systems, the liver, and kidneys.  Previously, generic 
labels were required, but there was no agreement on the standard 
language.  The government only approved the new specific wording on 
January 19, so producers and distributors had trouble meeting the 
February 1 deadline.  Chief Medical Officer Gennadiy Onishchenko, 
who is also the head of the Federal Supervision Service for Consumer 
Rights and Human Well Being (Rospotrebnadzor), stated in an 
information letter on his web-site January 30 that, as long as some 
form of health alert was affixed, inspectors would not remove 
bottles from circulation for the time being.  Various Russian 
Ministries have intervened publicly since Rosprotrebnadzor announced 
the label change, objecting to the label's wording and its 
introduction. 
 
Dubious Public Health Measure 
----------------------------- 
 
3. (SBU) From a public health perspective, it is laudable that the 
government is pointing out the dangers of drinking to certain 
vulnerable groups.  We suspect the government also wanted to take 
some action to combat the dangers of alcohol poisonings, which 
received much public attention in 2006 (Reftels).  However, the new 
regulation contains a huge loophole, in that no health warnings are 
required for bottles of beer.  (Note: The beer industry has blocked 
several legislative proposals put forward by the vodka lobby to 
treat beer like other alcoholic beverages.  Beer is currently 
classified as a soft drink.  End Note.) There is also no minimum 
size for the health warning, and many of the labels we have seen on 
store shelves would be difficult to read without a magnifying 
glass. 
 
4. (SBU) Russia's leading expert on alcohol and public health, Dr. 
Aleksandr Nemtsov of the Moscow Institute of Psychiatry, told us the 
new label is unlikely to have any significant impact on societal 
drinking habits.  He noted that similar health warnings on tobacco 
products have not significantly changed smoking patterns in Russia. 
He regretted that cardiovascular diseases were not mentioned on the 
warning label, since those illnesses are the main health consequence 
of drinking.  In his view, the Ministry of Health and Social 
Development developed the label language without consulting 
experts. 
 
Onishchenko Weighs In on Beer, Health and Labeling 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
5. (SBU) In a candid meeting February 7, Onishchenko acknowledged 
the new label would have a minimal impact on people's behavior.  He 
also expressed his deep disappointment beer is not treated like 
other alcoholic beverages.  He characterized the beer industry as an 
"irresponsible business," noting that some beer contains as much as 
16 percent alcohol, though "natural" beer production should never 
result in a product containing more than six percent alcohol.  He 
also observed that alcoholism from beer drinking was a serious 
problem in Russia.  Despite his health-based arguments to regulate 
beer, he had only succeeded in convincing the government to 
introduce a limited ban on television advertising for beer products, 
which now can only be shown after ten in the evening. 
 
 
MOSCOW 00000563  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
6. (SBU) Onishchenko stated the alcohol industry had been trying to 
stir up scandal in the implementation of the new health warning 
label.  He noted he had met with the association of alcohol 
producers to discuss how best to transition to a new labeling 
s
ystem.  Producers had stated they would need six months to comply, 
and Rospotrebnadzor had explained producers could continue to use 
the old health warning labels in the interim.  He did not anticipate 
any supply disruptions for domestic product.  Dr. Onishchenko showed 
no awareness about imported products and did not consult that market 
sector before acting, even though Russia imports $1.2 billion in 
alcohol annually. While domestic producers were warned in advance 
that a six month changeover time would be acceptable, 
Rospotrebnadzor did not publicly announce the implementation delay, 
and importers were left in the dark. 
 
Confusion for the Alcohol Market 
-------------------------------- 
 
7. (SBU) It is welcome news that the government appears willing to 
grant producers and distributors time to comply with the new law to 
minimize possible supply disruptions like those last summer that 
followed the chaotic implementation of a new excise tax stamp system 
for wine and hard alcohol (Reftels).  Russia continues to regulate 
alcohol inconsistently, with insufficient communication and 
coordination among customs, economic, agriculture, justice and 
health ministries.  Embassy industry contacts have no clear guidance 
on applying the new laws.  Despite GOR statements that 
implementation of the new law will be delayed, wholesalers report to 
us that retailers are asking that bottles carry the new labels, out 
of fear that local officials will levy fines against them and 
confiscate bottles.  Unlabeled alcohol was removed from some store 
shelves last week, but has returned over the last few days. 
 
8. (SBU) If Russia were a WTO member, the implementation of the 
health label law arguably would be inconsistent with the Technical 
Barriers to Trade Agreement, including the notice and comment 
provisions.  It will be more difficult for foreign producers to 
comply with the new regulation, since they will either need to 
segregate production destined for Russia and affix the new label at 
the point of production or an intermediate storage warehouse, or 
unpack and label bottles after they have been shipped to Russia. 
 
 
9. (SBU) Comment: Confusion in the alcohol market is likely to 
continue in 2007.  The Duma has announced it will consider a new 
alcohol monopoly, and it may include some additional regulation of 
retail sales.  Trade contacts are preparing themselves for further 
shocks from this proposal.  Russia continues to set alcohol policy 
without sufficiently considering how these changes will affect 
foreign products. 
 
BURNS

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