Valvira provides supervision and guidance to manufacturers and importers to ensure that they meet their duties under the Alcohol Act and Food Act. We conduct inspections of commercial premises and, as the supervisory authority, are entitled by law to obtain samples required for supervisory purposes free of charge. Valvira also supervises the sale of alcoholic beverages as part of our market surveillance remit.
Supervision and registers
As part of our supervisory activities, we maintain registers of license holders, known as the license register, and alcoholic beverages sold in Finland, known as the product register. Valvira is by law entitled to receive information necessary for supervisory and statistical purposes on license holders, products and sales. The license register contains information on all alcoholic beverage producers, wholesalers and importers as well as serving and retail license holders in Finland. The product register contains basic information on all alcoholic beverages marketed in Finland as well as the licensed traders responsible for them.
Alcohol producer and importer responsibilities
Alcohol beverage producers and importers are responsible for the quality and composition of the alcoholic beverages they release for public consumption, and for ensuring that the product, labelling and other presentations are in line with the Alcohol Act and Food Act. All businesses must have in place a self-monitoring plan setting out how they will ensure the product safety of their alcoholic beverages.
Monitoring for wholesalers and producers
Businesses undertake self-monitoring to ensure the quality and composition of the foodstuffs they produce and sell to consumers. The practice also forms part of good customer service. Self-monitoring ensures that food safety regulations are adhered to at all times. The requirement for businesses to undertake self-monitoring is set out in the Food Act.
A self-monitoring requirement is also set out in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health Decision (STMp) on the preconditions and applicants’ necessary reliability for the production license, import licence and wholesale licence of alcoholic beverages and spirits (274/1997). As an example, applicants are required to submit a report on their quality assurance procedures to ensure that adequate self-monitoring and quality control measures, sufficient to the requirements of the project in question, are in place.
Prohibitions and sanctions
Valvira may, where necessary, prohibit the placement of an alcoholic beverage on the market or require the producer to remove it from the market without compensation if the product or its presentation fail to comply with the relevant legal provisions and regulations and if the quality of the beverage or the potential adverse effects and risks on health have not been adequately controlled, or if such a prohibition is otherwise justified on population health grounds. Valvira’s decision cannot be appealed. Commercial operators who have been issued with a prohibition may refer the matter to the Market Court by application.
Under the Alcohol Act, Valvira may suspend or withdraw a production or wholesale license without compensation if the prescribed provisions, regulations, restrictions or conditions are not observed, or if the license holder is considered to no longer fulfil the conditions of the license or to have lost his/her reliability. Those wishing to appeal a decision issued by Valvira under the provisions of the Alcohol Act should do so with the relevant administrative court in their domicile.
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Alcoholic beverage labelling
The labelling of alcoholic beverages must comply with the provisions laid out in the relevant food and alcohol legislation.
The labelling requirements are based on Regulation 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the provision of food information to consumers. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry decree on the provision of food information to consumers (834/2014) contains further provisions on language and batch identification code.
The following mandatory information must displayed on all alcoholic beverage labelling:
Beverage name (this can be the legal name, customary name or descriptive name)
Substances and products causing allergies or intolerances
Date of minimum durability or the ”use by” date
Any special storage conditions and/or conditions of use, where relevant
The country of origin or place of provenance, where the failure to indicate this might mislead the consumer (as set out in Article 26)
Instructions for use, where relevant
The name or business name and address of the food business operator
The beverage or bottling batch (this can be substituted with a ”use by” date)
Details of ingredients containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
Information on the use of sweeteners
Warnings regarding certain substances, including caffeine and liquorice
In addition to the mandatory information listed above, the following should be taken into account with labelling:
Language requirements: all mandatory labelling must be displayed in Finnish and Swedish
Legibility: all mandatory labelling information must be permanently rendered in an easy to read area in a sufficiently large font to allow them to be easily read and understood.
List of ingredients: including a list of ingredients in alcoholic beverage labelling is not mandatory but recommended. If a list of ingredients is provided it must include all ingredients in descending order of weight as recorded at the time of manufacture.
Nutrition declaration: including a nutrition declaration in alcoholic beverage labelling is not mandatory but possible. The declaration must be included if the label contains a nutritional claim, such as ”diet”. For alcoholic beverages, providing the energy value is sufficient.
Organic production methods: Including a reference to a product’s organic production methods is optional but, if included, the product must be submitted to a control system as set out under European Council regulation 834/2007 on organic production.
Advertising: As the labels on alcoholic beverage packaging can be used for advertising, as well as to convey product information, the requirements set out in the Alcohol Act on advertising must be taken into account in relation to both text and images during the design process.
Specific legal requirements concerning wine labelling.
Alcoholic beverage recall
If an alcoholic beverage producer or wholesaler has cause to suspect that the alcoholic beverage they are selling does not confirm to food safety requirements, the wholesaler must commence immediate action to remove the product in question from the market.
In a recall situation, the alcohol beverage producer or wholesaler are required to take the following action:
Remove the product from the market (recall),
Notify the relevant supervisory authority (Valvira) of the recall; and
Inform consumers of the product defect, the reason for the recall and the arrangements for returning the product (e.g. returning it to the place of purchase).
Organic alcohol production
Valvira supervises commercial operators involved in the production, wholesale, storage, marketing and import from third countries of organically produced alcoholic beverages. Other authorities supervising organic production in Finland are the Finnish Food Safety Authority (Evira) and Customs.
A product is considered to contain an indication to organic production if consumers are led to understand that the product or one or more of its ingredients has been produced in accordance with the production rules on organic production. The indication may appear in the labelling, other packaging information, advertising material or commercial documents.
Alcoholic beverages that have been produced, imported and marketed with indications of organic production methods are subject to the same legislation as all conventionally produced alcoholic beverages.
Supervising organic alcoholic beverages and the organic control system
Commercial operators involved in the production, wholesale, storage, import or production outsourcing of organic alcoholic beverages must be covered by a control system. Retail and on-trade sales of alcohol direct to the end consumer are not subject to the control system requirement.
Producers using organic ingredients they have cultivated or foraged themselves, are subject to Evira supervision with regard to these ingredients.
Joining an organic production control system
Eligibility to join the organic production control system is subject to a valid production or wholesale license issued by Valvira.
Membership of the control system must be sought in writing using the relevant form (Hakemus luonnonmukaisen tuotannon valvontajärjestelmään) before commencing any activity. In addition to the operator details, the application must also specify the type of activity the application pertains to, i.e. production, production outsourcing, storage, import or wholesale.
The application should be submitted to Valvira in Finnish or Swedish. The applicant may appoint a representative or proxy to act on their behalf during the application process. The representative is required to present the authorisation entitling them to act on the applicant’s behalf.
The decision to admit the applicant to the control system will remain valid until further notice. Annual production inspections and register-based supervision are used to ensure compliance with the requirements laid out in legislation. Where appropriate, Valvira will provide detailed guidance on implementation in conjunction with an inspection visit.
Processing times vary but, as a rule, applications will be processed in approximately 30 days. Where appropriate, an initial inspection of the premises will be carried out during the processing period. The fee payable for the application is determined by a Ministry of Social Affairs and Health decree.