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   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 204, March 2021   
Wine is Harmful to Your Health. Maybe.Wine is Harmful to Your Health. Maybe.  Contents 
Issue 203, February 2021 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 205, April 2021

Wine is Harmful to Your Health. Maybe.


 These are difficult times for wine. The crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic seems to be not enough, now there is also the suspicion wine can be harmful to your health and even in a very serious way. Nevertheless, in Italy we have always been used to hearing that wine makes good blood and may have positive effects on health. For years, we have continuously heard authoritative figures of the world of medicine and science asserting wine can also have positive effects on people's health. Let's be clear: the abuse of wine consumption – and this has always been known by everyone – is certainly not healthy at all, after all, even the excessive consumption of the harmless water has consequences on health, so researchers tell us, as it may cause a kind of addiction. Of course, the consequences are very different and with a very different impact, perhaps the healthy and wise principle of common sense is always very useful, also by remembering that, as Paracelsus notoriously suggested, “it is the dose that makes the poison”.


 

 In the past few weeks, the world of wine has been “alarmed” in consequence of a plan proposed by the European Commission called “Europe's Beating Cancer Plan” and which will be promoted – it seems – in the course of 2021 with the “HealthyLifestyle4All” campaign. This document has caused some concern in the world of wine – Italian, in particular – assuming that, in the measures proposed by the document, wine was also implicitly affected. This plan, in fact, explicitly refers to the need of contrasting the excessive consumption of alcohol, considered one of the causes that could favor the development of this pathology. The plan also explicitly refers to alcoholic beverages – and wine is, undeniably, an alcoholic beverage – however without mentioning the word “wine” at all. The plan, due to these references, was however enough to alarm the world of wine.

 Let's make a necessary premise: any campaign in favor of disease prevention – any disease – can only be welcomed favorably, since the health of individuals – and therefore of the entire community, in this case the European Union – is an essential condition for the well-being of all. Including the productive, economic and social ones. That alcohol, or rather alcohol abuse, is one of the causes that could favor the development of serious diseases, and not only cancer, is something that everyone has known for a very long time. The same is also known for tobacco and for a long list of substances, also intended for human and animal nutrition. The prevention plan proposed by the European Commission, in fact, also takes into consideration these substances, therefore not only alcohol and, in this regard, the plan particularly suggests “the reduction of the harmful consumption of alcohol” aiming to a relative reduction of at least 10% of the harmful use of alcohol by 2025.

 Among the measures proposed in this plan, There is also the obligation to write in the label of alcoholic beverages the list of ingredients and the nutritional declaration by 2022 in addition to the health warnings to be written by 2023. In other words, the label should inform consumers on the possible risks deriving from the consumption of alcoholic beverages, exactly as it is already reported, for example, in the packs of cigarettes and tobacco. This last part has caused a certain alarm in the world of wine, that is the possibility of indicating the composition on the label in addition to the warnings relating to health risks, well known for years to all consumers of cigarette packs. In short, the fear of seeing warnings such as “it is harmful to your health” written in wine bottles could be likely to happen in case this plan is approved. Likewise, this could also be true for any alcoholic beverage, as in this plan are generically mentioned all these types of products.

 Following the complaints of producers and trade associations related to wine, the vice president of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas pointed out that `«certainly the European Union will not ban wine, and we will not label wine as being something that is toxic as it is part of who we are and of our way of life». This declaration was then followed by the words of the Commissioner for health Stella Kyriakides, confirming that «the European Commission will propose mandatory labeling of ingredients and nutrient content, along with health warnings on alcoholic beverages. Initiatives that will be based on the experiences already made in order to give consumers more possibilities to choose with greater awareness». Having said this, and assuming that words are followed by concrete and coherent facts, these are positions that can be supported. In case, indeed, there is a risk, it is always better to be informed in advance and then, if necessary, make a choice with the awareness of the possible consequences. Regardless of whether it is wine or not.

 In my opinion, the goal of this plan in contrasting the abuse of alcoholic beverages must necessarily be considered, especially in the younger population and which, obviously, is decidedly more fragile in regard of these issues. The plan, in fact, explicitly refers to alcoholic beverages, so it is not exclusively about wine but all of them in a general sense. The abuse of alcoholic beverages – whether it is wine or not – is certainly something that must be contrasted, especially in cultural term, particularly in the younger population. I think we all agree that drinking a glass of wine is not exactly like drinking an equal amount – so to speak – of brandy or any other spirit. With this, of course, I have no intention of denigrating either brandy or spirits in a general sense, as they are types of alcoholic beverages I appreciate, support and consume. But, of course, as Paracelsus said “it is the dose that makes the poison” and we know very well that, technically speaking, ethyl alcohol is a toxic substance. Of course, if consumed in large quantities and by abusing of it. It is the dose that makes the poison, in fact.

 I don't deny it: the idea of seeing warnings in wine labels such as “it seriously harms your health” is something disturbing me as it would be like arguing that our millenary culture – which has undeniably developed also on viticulture, production and consumption of wine – is, in some respects, equally harmful to health. In particular for the fact I believe I know the value of wine, and not only in cultural and identity terms, not only for Italy but for many other European countries, and the value, including the economic one, it represents for all of us. And it is because I know the value of wine and alcoholic beverages, I believe it is equally right to support and encourage conscious consumption without excessive abuse because this, not least, undermines the dignity and meaning of wine and its culture. Therefore, any plan aimed at preventing the abuse of alcoholic beverages are welcome, for which the effectiveness of the results – I have always been convinced of this – is fundamentally based on culture and the education of awareness to “responsible drinking”. And as I usually end the episodes of DiWineTaste podcast, also in this occasion, I am wishing you all to “have good wine, in moderation, provided it is always a quality wine”.

Antonello Biancalana



   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 204, March 2021   
Wine is Harmful to Your Health. Maybe.Wine is Harmful to Your Health. Maybe.  Contents 
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