DUBLIN — Ireland will become the first country in the world to require alcoholic beverages to display health warnings indicating they could potentially cause cancer, a long-awaited move hailed by health advocates but hotly opposed by producers drinks from all over the world.
On Monday, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly signed into law the Public Health (Alcohol) (Labelling) Regulations 2023 and confirmed that the new rules will come into force in three years – on May 22, 2026.
Ireland acted after its plans lifted two key hurdles at the European Union and the World Trade Organization, which received complaints from winemakers, brewers and distillers around the world but refused to block the proposed action for competitive or other reasons.
“I am delighted that we are the first country in the world to take this step and introduce full health labeling of alcoholic products,” Donnelly said in a written statement, noting that Ireland was also the first country to ban smoking. in closed public places, including pubs, in 2004. “I can’t wait for other countries to follow our example.”
While Ireland’s regulations have drawn criticism from beverage industry lobbyists around the world, the most vocal attacks have come from European winemakers, who have called the proposed labeling by the EU unproven and unreasonable. Ireland that wine consumption may increase the risk of cancer. They called on Ireland to give in and wait for a possible EU-wide labeling scheme – one which industry lobbyists hoped would exclude cancer from the list of risks.
Call to action
Civil society organizations are pushing for the Commission to act and come up with a proposal that includes health information on the label, rather than the off-label digital alternative favored by the industry.
“Our concern is that the data collection exercise as part of the preparation of the proposal, including the impact assessment, is unduly influenced by commercial operators. We are very concerned that this important legislation will not see the light of day before the end of the current term,” wrote a coalition of civil society leaders, led by the European Alcohol Policy Alliance ( Eurocare) to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. and other commissioners and senior officials in a letter sent on Monday.
“The nutrition and ingredient information on the label is the most appropriate and practical way to respect consumers’ right to know,” they wrote, stressing the importance of the label to the plan. European fight against cancer.
Ireland has expressed satisfaction – and, behind the scenes, relief – that trade and competition authorities at EU and WTO level have chosen to support medical evidence over warnings Of the industry.
“The medical evidence is clear that a cancer risk applies even at lower levels of alcohol consumption,” said Hildegarde Naughton, Ireland’s Minister of State for Public Health and Drugs Strategy.
Ireland’s leading drinks industry lobbyist, Drinks Ireland, has warned that at least some European producers of wine and other alcoholic beverages are likely to stop supplying Irish-based retailers as they fail to produce goods with a unique packaging to the Irish market.
Irish regulations will apply in all places where alcoholic beverages are sold. This will mean new labeling on every bottle and can be displayed on retail shelves and, in pubs, signage behind the bar displaying the same warnings.
With additional reporting by Helen Collis and Susannah Savage. This story has been updated.