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Ireland to introduce world-first alcohol health labeling policy

Posted on the 23rd May 2023

Alcohol Warning Labels

The Republic of Ireland is set to become the first country in the world to introduce health warning labels on alcohol products.

The health minister, Stephen Donnelly, signed the legislation yesterday, Monday, and said he looked forward to other countries following the example – a prospect that has worried several other EU member states including Italy.

The regulations will come into force on 22 May 2026 with the new labels alerting people to calorie content, grams of alcohol, risks of cancer and liver disease and dangers of drinking while pregnant.

The Minister said the new laws would bring alcohol products into line with requirements for food packaging.

“With that information, we can make an informed decision about our own alcohol consumption,” he said.

“Packaging of other food and drink products already contains health information and, where appropriate, health warnings. This law is bringing alcohol products into line with that.”

Alcoholic drink providers will be compelled to display the information and warnings on product packaging and to direct consumers to the website of Ireland’s Health Service Executive for further information on alcohol consumption.

Similar information will also be made available in pubs and other licensed premises.

Alcohol consumption in Ireland peaked in 2001 when the average person drank 14.3 liters of pure alcohol a year. That has fallen to 10.2 liters, according to the Health Research Board.

Although the European Commission did not object to Ireland’s plan, there have been protests from Italy, Spain and six other EU member states.

Earlier this year, Italy’s ambassador to Ireland, Reggero Corrias described the plans as “totally disproportionate.”

Speaking to Ireland’s public broadcaster, RTÉ, he said: "There is nothing wrong with the warnings, the point is the warnings should be proportionate and, in this case, since you're talking about wine, saying that drinking alcohol on a bottle of wine causes liver disease is totally disproportionate."

Coldiretti, Italy’s biggest farmers’ association, described the “terrifying” warnings as a “direct attack”.

Meanwhile, the Chief Executive of Alcohol Action Ireland, Dr Sheila Gilheany welcomed the move.

She said: "This measure goes some way to ensuring consumers are informed about some of the risks from alcohol."

Related: New guidance on alcohol consumption issued

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