European Union: Brewers Grapple with Bifenazat Ban on Hops

Breweries within the European Union holding stocks of US and CZ hops from 2022 or earlier need to take swift action. These hops, likely containing higher levels of Bifenazat, are no longer permitted for human consumption in the EU.

As of late 2023, it's clear that the EU allows only a six-month period to consume or  dispose of hops with excessive levels of Etoxazol and Bifenazat, as well as beers brewed from them – impacting hop stocks from 2022 and earlier. The deadline for products with high Etoxazol levels is April 8, 2024, posing a significant challenge for traders and brewers.

If consumption before this date cannot be ensured, brewers have the option to dispose of or sell the hops outside the EU, where regulations on Etoxazol and Bifenazat are less stringent.

Internal communications expose intense lobbying efforts, reports Inside Getraenke from Munich. Hop growers from the USA and the Czech Republic, along with the German Hop Industry Association and the European Brewers, appealed to Klaus Berend, Deputy Director-General for Food Sustainability at the EU Commission. They highlighted potential losses exceeding 100 million euros for the hop industry and the severe impact on European brewers if the current six-month transition period remained unchanged. However, no regulation has been issued yet.

A likely deadline for disposing of problematic hops is September 2024. While the EU ban affects only the European market, discussions raise concerns about US hops treated with Bifenazat and Etaxazol, making the extended deadline less effective. Although the craft beer segment, where most US hops are used, has been struggling, overall damage is manageable. However, brewers with remaining inventory face challenges.

Bifenazat, a fast-acting contact poison against mites, had its EU approval renewed in 2022 for non-edible greenhouse crops. Subsequently, permissible levels in food were reduced in May 2023. Consequently, produce treated with Bifenazat “should not be used for processing canned or frozen food with a best-before date beyond April 2024”.

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