The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has reached an agreement with drinks regulators that will ensure Southern hemisphere wine producers won't be at a disadvantage when allergen labelling is implemented.

The WSTA argued with regulators that Southern Hemisphere producers harvesting in early 2009 and bottling at the time of the deadline could face conflicting labelling requirements for the same batch of wine.

European Union allergen labelling rules, requiring label reference to egg and milk content, are due to come into force in the UK at the end of May 2009.

The EU Commission may also extend the UK enforcement date beyond May next year, which could mean that some Southern hemisphere producers would have to change labels twice.

However, the coordinating body for local authorities (LACORS) has agreed UK food law enforcement officers should be pragmatic and give Southern Hemisphere producers "a bit of latitude" about compliance.

The new deal could save producers "thousands of pounds", the WSTA said today (15 December).

"We're pleased the regulators are adopting a flexible approach," Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the WSTA. "What may seem like a small step to some actually has huge cost implications for Southern hemisphere wine producers - they shouldn't pay a penalty because their production timetable happens to coincide with the current enforcement date for allergen labelling."

A spokesperson for the WSTA told just-drinks that regulators will likely take more "pragmatic" attitude towards the Southern hemisphere now.

"If someone misses a deadline then they are unlikely to be prosecuted," the spokesperson said. "They are really adopting a practical approach given the timetable. We are optimistic that the Commission may delay the deadline to a later date. If it does remain then they will not be pressing producers and scrutinising them with a view to prosecuting."