By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
New legislation on health labelling for alcohol products has been signed into law by Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly.
The law means that the labels of alcohol products will state the calorie content and grams of alcohol in the product.
They will also warn about the risk of consuming alcohol when pregnant and of the risk of liver disease and fatal cancers from alcohol consumption.
Ireland is the first country in the world to introduce such regulations.
There is a three-year lead-in time built into the law in order to give businesses time to prepare for the change.
The law will apply from May 22nd, 2026.
As well as health labelling of alcohol products sold in Ireland, similar health information will be available for customers in licensed premises.
Mr 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 for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy Hildegarde Naughton 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.”
Mr Donnelly said: “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.”
There has been some backlash to the decision however, as Drinks Ireland said 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.
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.”