Russian ban on Polish apples sparks cider debate

August 22, 2014 - 9:05 AM
Poland Cider Debate

Bottles of Polish cider sit on a shelf in a small store in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. A Russian ban on European food imports has sparked a debate in Poland over whether to allow advertising cider. The country is a major global apple exporter and had previously sent half its output to Russia. With officials scrambling to help apple producers, the Economy Ministry says it wants to lift a ban on advertising any alcohol other than beer. That has put it at odds with health advocates and the Health Ministry, which oppose encouraging greater alcohol consumption in a country where some people already drink too much. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's Economy Ministry wants the nation of beer and vodka lovers to drink more cider.

The ministry, which is struggling to help apple producers hurt by a Russian embargo on European foods, has proposed exempting cider from a law that bans advertising any alcohol other than beer.

But the Health Ministry and other health advocates are fighting the proposal. They say it is dangerous to encourage any alcohol consumption at all in a society that does not share the Mediterranean tradition of simply savoring small amounts of wine or beer at mealtimes.

"Poles are not light drinkers — it's the Eastern European model," said Krzysztof Brzozka, director of the State Agency for the Prevention of Alcohol Related Problems.

He said there are some people who don't like the bitterness of beer or other strong drinks who could take a dangerous liking to the lightness and sweetness of cider, which is currently consumed in only small quantities in Poland. For instance, young women could start drinking more, increasing the already high number of infants with fetal alcohol syndrome.

His agency, which is under the umbrella of the Health Ministry, is fighting the proposed change, which is to be debated in the Senate after it convenes in late September.

The Economy Ministry says it makes no sense to ban advertising cider when there is no similar ban on beer, which has a similar alcohol content.

The changes it has proposed to the so-called "law on educating about sobriety and counteracting alcoholism" are meant to help Polish farmers use the excess apples swamping the market due to the embargo that Moscow imposed weeks ago.

Poland is a major global apple exporter and had previously sent half its output to Russia.