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Traditional methods of production of the "green fairy" spirit drink are not respected by an EU definition drafted by the European Commission, MEPs say, as Parliament vetoed the text on Wednesday. It would have required minimum levels of two substances, anethole and thujone, which are not always met by some producers in Europe, for using the name "Absinthe".

The iconic and controversial drink, is said to have fueled the creativity of many artists until the early years of the 20th century and a long ban in most EU countries. The spirit, however, has yet no clear definition under EU rules. A first attempt was vetoed on Wednesday by the European Parliament, in a resolution adopted by 409 votes to 247, with 19 abstentions.

"Absinthe variations" under threat

MEPs highlight that not all traditional recipes foresee a minimum anethole level (a flavour component of anise): Depending on the regional availability of herbs and plants and on different consumer tastes (e.g. more or less sweet), the traditional practices of Absinthe production differ in many EU countries, MEPs say.

Thus, producers of these "absinthe variations" would have been required either to abstain from using the name "Absinthe" of to change their recipes, MEPs say.

Thujone is not essential

Moreover, the definition stipulates a minimum thujone level (a substance contained in many plants, including Artemisia absinthium) while some producers are using other Artemisia plants that are thujone-free, say MEPs. They also argue that the proposed minimum levels go against the "paradigm of dealing with this this potentially harmful substance", which is "not an indispensable characteristic" to Absinthe.

Next steps

With the European Parliament opposing the draft definition, the European Commission has to come forward with a new proposal.