New European rules on the labelling of alcoholic drinks were intended to clear up confusion over use of the word ‘vodka’. Drinks known as vodka are currently made not only of grain or potato, but also of grapes, bananas and other produce. The new rules mean that labelling will have to be clearer, so that people have a better idea of what a particular drink containes.
But the rules also mean that the traditional Swedish word for vodka – ‘brännvin’ – will have to be accompanied by the words ‘spirit drink’. The fact that brännvin can in Swedish only refer to a spirit made of potato or grain means that the rules has been dismissed as absurd by Swedish officials.
Under the new rules, the European Commission and European Parliament ruled that vodka can be made of pretty much anything, as long as it is made clear on the label. But according to the final draft, ‘bränvinn’ was not clear enough. The new rule on labelling brännvin has not gone down well in the Swedish government.
“It’s quite simply silly. We think that ‘brännvin’ is quite clear enough,” said Rolf Eriksson, senior aide to Agriculture Minister Eskil Erlandsson.
“A bottle of Renat brännvin will now need to be labelled ‘spirit drink’ on the back,” Eriksson complained, blaming the new rule on “meddlesome translators” in the European Parliament.
Officials at the Swedish Agriculture Ministry admit that they should have checked the translation more carefully before it was too late.
Dissatisfaction with the labelling rules were behind Sweden’s decision to vote against the new rule, which was passed by EU agriculture ministers on Monday.