29 May 2023 Ireland becomes first country to introduce health labelling on alcoholic drinks
Ireland is set to become the first country in the world to introduce health labelling on alcoholic drinks.
The legislation, signed recently by health minister Stephen Donnelly, will alert consumers to the calorie content, grams of alcohol in the product, the risks of cancer and liver disease and the dangers of drinking while pregnant.
There is a three-year lead-in time built into the law to give businesses time to prepare for the change.
Donnelly said that the law is designed to give consumers a better understanding of the alcohol content and health risks associated with consuming alcohol, enabling consumers to make informed decisions about alcohol consumption.
He added: “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.”
Hildegarde Naughton, the minister for public health, wellbeing and the national drugs strategy, said that medical evidence has shown that a “cancer risk applies even at lower levels of alcohol consumption”.
Alcoholic drink providers will have to display the information and warnings on product packaging with a label that will direct the consumer to Ireland’s ‘Health Service Executive’ website.
The Irish Cancer Society also issued a statement that it welcomed the news. Rachel Morrogh, director of advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, said that health labelling will empower people to “make informed decisions about alcohol by raising awareness of the risk it poses to health”.
Eurocare, an association of non-governmental and public health organisations across Europe that advocates for the prevention and reduction of alcohol-related harm, also showed its support for the new law.
However, the legislation has not been welcomed by all. SpiritsEurope submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission asking for the opening of an infringement procedure against Ireland for “breaching EU law with its planned new regulation on labelling rules for alcoholic beverages”.
Representing spirits drinks producers in the EU, it asserts that the law would mean a disproportionate trade barrier, which could hamper the free movement of goods.
The statement said: “In practice, the new rules would prevent economic operators from selling alcoholic beverages legally sold in all other EU Member States in Ireland unless the products were re-labelled with additional information on the grams of alcohol and on the number of calories in the container, as well as health warnings text and pictograms”.
The law is expected to be applicable from 22 May 2026.