New alcohol labelling is a world first
Ireland is set to become the 1st country in the world with mandatory health warnings on alcohol, as the Government has signed into law new public health regulations.
The new law means labels of alcohol products will state the calorie content and grams of alcohol in the product. They will warn about the risk of consuming alcohol when pregnant and will also warn of the risk of liver disease and fatal cancers from alcohol consumption.
The labels will direct the consumer to the HSE website, Askaboutalcohol.ie, for further information too.
While the new law was sign on Monday, there is a 3 year lead in time built into the law in order to give businesses time to prepare for the change. The law will apply from 22 May 2026.
Minister Donnelly said: “This law is designed to give all of us as consumers a better understanding of the alcohol content and health risks associated with consuming alcohol. With that information, we can make an informed decision about our own alcohol consumption.
“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.”
Minister Donnelly added: “I welcome that we are the first country in the world to take this step and introduce comprehensive health labelling of alcohol products. I look forward to other countries following our example.”
Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton TD said: “Everyone has a right to be told about the risks associated with a product before we consume it. This law is designed to ensure all consumers of alcohol have access to clear and concise information about the risks from alcohol. The medical evidence is clear that a cancer risk applies even at lower levels of alcohol consumption.”
However, there was also some backlash over the decision. Cormac Healy, Director of Drinks Ireland, said: “Unfortunately this is an example of zealotry rather than evidence-based legislation. We would call on Government to urgently address these significant international concerns from the EU and beyond and explain why Ireland is going alone on alcohol labels at a time when harmonised labels are being planned across the EU.
“The Government have been staunch defenders of the harmonised EU market, but is now clearly causing unnecessary tensions with important trading partners. We do not need two labelling systems. The logic remains that Ireland works with the EU on its plans for a harmonised approach.”
Drinks Ireland explained that last week, a number of Brussels based European organisations representing the spirits, beer and wines sectors lodged formal complaints asking the European Commission to open an infringement procedure against Ireland for breaching EU law.
“They call out the Irish proposals as a disproportionate trade barrier, undermining the single market and that other less trade disruptive approaches can and should be taken. Again this process is not complete,” said Drinks Ireland.
Drinks Ireland also believed the legislation will have a significant negative impact on Irish producers not only reputationally but logistically and in terms of massive additional costs, in particular small breweries and distilleries, at a time when there are already massive external pressure from inflation and other issues.