A voting board displaying the results of a vote on a bill to raise the alcohol content limit for beverages sold in supermarkets in the session hall of the Finnish Parliament in Helsinki on Wednesday, 5 June 2024. The bill will raise the maximum alcohol content of beverages produced by fermentation from 5.5 to 8.0 per cent as soon as on Monday, 10 June, according to Helsingin Sanomat. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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THE FINNISH PARLIAMENT on Wednesday voted 102 in favour and 80 against a government bill to raise the maximum alcohol content limit for beverages sold in supermarkets from 5.5 to 8.0 per cent.

The bill was backed by all ruling-party lawmakers who were present at the vote, with the exception of the Christian Democrats. In addition, five opposition lawmakers voted for the bill – three from the Centre and two from the Green League.

Seventeen lawmakers were absent from the vote.

The limit, though, applies only to beverages produced by fermentation. The canned cocktails, long drinks and other mixed alcoholic beverages found on supermarket shelves will therefore continue to have an alcohol content of at most 5.5 per cent.

Helsingin Sanomat revealed yesterday evening that the legislative amendment will enter into effect on Monday, 10 June, following its approval by President Alexander Stubb on Friday, 7 June. Kesko and S Group, the two largest retail conglomerates in Finland, indicated to the newspaper that they intend to introduce stronger alcoholic beverages to their shelves as soon as possible.

“The plan is to start deliveries to shops as soon as possible after the law has come into effect following its approval. In the best-case scenario, these new products will be available on the same day,” stated Aki Erkkilä, the director of sales and procurement at Kesko.

“We’ve prepared for the amendment for some time,” told Heidi Salmi, a product category head at S Group. “We have a modest stock of the new products, and we’ll try to get them to shops as quickly as possible after the law has come into force.

The Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry has criticised the bill for distorting competition by treating beverages with similar alcohol content differently based on the production method. The European Commission, it highlighted, has estimated that the amendment would grant a significant competitive advantage to beverages produced by fermentation in the domestic market.

“At this moment, I can’t comment on what kind of actions we’ll possibly take. This issue will be discussed at our board of directors’ meeting at the end of June,” Katriina Jaakkola, the managing director of the Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry, stated to Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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