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French group demands Sarkozy action on anti-alcohol lobby

A French group has threatened Nicolas Sarkozy with industrial action if he does not curb the anti-alcohol lobby.

Vin et Société, which represents the French wine sector, has threatened to take industry wide action if President Sarkozy does not act on campaign promises to resolve increasing limitations on wine and spirits advertising in France.

‘We have not yet got a date for a meeting [with Sarkozy]. We will wait only until the second half of March, after the municipal elections, because we don’t want to politicise the issue,’ said Delphine Blanc, director of Vin et Société.

The group made the demand at France’s main agricultural show, the Salon de l’Agriculture at the Porte de Versailles in Paris, held annually from February to the beginning of March.

If Sarkozy does not agree a date for a meeting by the deadline, the group says it will mobilise the entire sector.

Sarkozy, speaking at the show, confirmed yet again that he would seek a solution which would make wine a ‘product of terroir, not the guilty party’.

He also reconfirmed campaign promises, made notably in Sancerre in April 2007, that he would give more freedom to wine advertising, currently strictly limited by the 1991 Evin Law.

The Vin et Société demand follows a series of recent court cases taken, and won, by ANPAA (Association Nationale de Prévention en Alcoologie et Addictologie), the anti-alcohol lobby group.

ANPAA won cases against Moet & Chandon, Heineken, Le Parisien newspaper, and a French restaurant chain, for encouraging the consumption of alcoholic drinks beyond the limits of the law.

Last month’s case against Heineken forced the brewer to close its French website after the judge ruled the internet was not an approved medium for drinks publicity.

Vin et Societe is demanding that the internet be included as an approved medium, and that the meaning of the word ‘publicity’ be clearly defined.

‘Simply mentioning the name of an alcoholic drink currently constitutes publicity,’ said Blanc.

The current climate in France is such that one national daily paper, Le Figaro, now puts a government approved health warning at the end of wine related articles.

Written by Sophie Kevany in Bordeaux

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