The Irish Minister of Health, Stephen Donnelly, announced on May 22 that he has legally introduced the world's first health labeling of alcoholic products. According to a press release from the Irish Ministry of Health, the law requires the labels of alcoholic products to display the calorie content and the amount of alcohol in grams. Furthermore, they must warn of the risk of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and the risk of liver disease and fatal cancers due to alcohol consumption.
In addition, the labels must direct consumers to the Health Service Executive (HSE) website www.askaboutalcohol.ie for further information.
New law enters into force
The law stipulates a three-year lead time, allowing companies sufficient time to prepare for the change. It will become legally binding from May 22, 2026.
Donnelly commented on the law, stating, "It is intended to provide us as consumers with a better understanding of the alcoholic content and the health risks associated with consumption of alcohol. With this information, we can make an informed decision about our own alcohol consumption." Hildegarde Naughton, Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing, and the National Drug Strategy, added, "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."
"First country in the world..."
Donnelly concluded, "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."
Member States disagree
Ireland's solo effort is strongly criticized within the European industry. It is also criticized for making no distinction between the various alcoholic products and their moderate consumption. The Member States' wine associations support the educational work of the EU-funded "Wine in Moderation" campaign, which promotes moderate, enjoyable wine consumption and lobbies for a uniform, moderate legal framework at European level.
Secretary General Christian Schwörer of the German Wine Association (DWV):
"The Irish draft prevents the harmonization of EU regulations and questions their effect and efficiency. Unilateral initiatives of a member state to develop legal provisions on issues that are already harmonized by EU legal provisions or for which harmonization is planned cannot be accepted."