The licence holder is responsible for fulfilling the prerequisites needed and the reliability required for the operations subject to a licence. Valvira steers and supervises the fulfilment of the responsibilities of the producer and importer of alcoholic beverages in accordance with the Alcohol Act and the Food Act.
The production, wholesale and use of alcohol is supervised, for example, through supervisory inspections, market surveillance, sampling, and document and register supervision. Both plan-based supervision, based on a risk assessment, and reactive supervision are used. The importance of the self-monitoring of the licence holders is emphasised and in its self-monitoring plan, the company must describe the measures taken to guarantee the product safety of the alcoholic beverages. The self-monitoring plan referred to in the Alcohol Act describes how compliance with the obligations laid down in the Alcohol Act is ensured.
Supervision and registers
Valvira’s registers on the licence holders (licence register) and the alcoholic beverages sold in Finland (product register) form a part of the supervision. Valvira is entitled to receive the necessary notifications and information concerning sales and other operations from the licence holder necessary for supervision and the assessment of the risks of the operations. The licence register contains information on the producers, wholesalers and importers of alcoholic beverages operating in Finland, and the holders of serving and retail licences. The product register contains the basic information on the alcoholic beverages on the market in Finland and the traders responsible for them.
Definitions of alcohols
Alcoholic beverage means a substance containing alcohol intended for drinking, containing more than 1.2% of ethyl alcohol by volume and no more than 80% of ethyl alcohol by volume. Alcoholic beverages include beer, cider, wine, liqueur, hard liqueur, vodka and rum.
Mild alcoholic beverage means an alcoholic beverage that contains no more than 22% ethyl alcohol by volume and a strong alcoholic beverage means an alcoholic beverage that contains more than 22% but no more than 80% ethyl alcohol by volume.
Spirits are ethyl alcohol and a water solution of ethyl alcohol that contains more than 80% of ethyl alcohol by volume. Spirits can be used in the production of alcoholic beverages, foodstuffs, vinegar, nutrimental supplements and pharmaceutical products, for medicinal purposes, and in scientific research and laboratory tests and analyses.
Alcoholic products mean substances containing more than 1.2% of ethyl alcohol by volume that are not alcoholic beverages or spirits. Alcoholic products may be denatured. Denaturing means the treatment of a substance with alcohol content by the addition of other substances with the purpose of making it unfit for consumption. Alcoholic products include perfumes, mouthwashes, aftershaves, liquid detergents and foods with alcohol content.
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.
Alcoholic beverage labelling
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
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
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.