The Republic of Ireland plans to introduce warning labels on all alcoholic products, due to come into force in 2026, and dozens of countries have complained the effect is “disproportionate”.
“I am delighted that we are the first country in the world to take this step and introduce full health labeling of alcoholic products,” Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly told reporters this week. “I look forward to other countries following our lead.”
Other countries include warning labels on alcoholic products, but Ireland’s labels will contain much more information.
The new labels will include the product’s calorie content and the number of grams of alcohol in addition to a general warning about the risks of alcohol consumption – the dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy as well as the risks liver disease and deadly cancers, the BBC reported. .
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“This law is designed to give all of us, as consumers, a better understanding of alcohol content and the health risks associated with alcohol consumption,” Donnelly said.
An annual health survey in Ireland found that around 22% of the country’s population aged 15-34 could be considered ‘heavy drinkers’, with 13% of drinkers saying they consume more alcohol now that they did at the onset of COVID-19. The survey also found that 79% of respondents did not know the risk of breast cancer from excessive alcohol consumption, 60% did not know the risk of breast cancer gut and 7% thought it was safe to drink small amounts during pregnancy. .
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The delayed start is supposed to give companies a chance to prepare for the change, but it has, predictably, caused some disagreement from major alcohol exporters and sellers.
Thirteen members of the European Union, of which Ireland is a member, have raised concerns about labelling. France, Italy and Spain led the dissent, with Italian ambassador to Ireland Ruggero Corrias saying the plan was “totally disproportionate”.
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“There is nothing wrong with warnings, the fact is that warnings should be proportionate and in this case, since you are talking about wine, to say that drinking alcohol from a bottle of wine causes disease of the liver is totally disproportionate,” complained Corrias. .
Several groups, including the European Committee of Wine Societies, have lodged formal complaints with the European Commission against the new labels, arguing that they support Ireland’s efforts to tackle alcohol abuse but that the coup ported to businesses could prove too costly, NPR reported.
But the Irish Department of Health said it informed Brussels of its regulatory changes in June last year and received no complaints during the required six-month standstill period. Donnelly told the Financial Times that postponing the change was a “categorical no”.
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Ten other countries outside Ireland, including the UK, US, New Zealand, Australia and Mexico, have also filed complaints with the World Trade Organization, which will discuss the concerns at a meeting of the Technical Barriers to Trade Committee on 21 June.
Reuters contributed to this report.