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Alcohol

Donnelly defends signing into law world’s first legislation on health labelling of alcohol

Labels will state the calorie content and grams of alcohol in the product.

LAST UPDATE | 22 May 2023

MINISTER STEPHEN DONNELLY has defended signing into law new legislation on health labelling for alcohol products.

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 22 May 2026.

As well as health labelling of alcohol products sold in Ireland, similar health information will be available for customers in licensed premises.

Donnelly said in a statement today: “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.”

This law is designed to ensure all consumers of alcohol have access to clear and concise information about the risks from alcohol.

Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One, Donnelly said he will “make no apologies for making sure that people in Ireland get access to the health warnings that they need”. 

“What we’re doing is we’re saying people are free to live the lives that they want to lead. And we are making sure that they can make informed choices for themselves. So up until now, where there are health risks associated with particular foods or particular drinks, those warnings quite rightly have been on those products,” Donnelly said, adding that people should still have a drink if they wish to. 

“All we’re doing is saying people have a right to know what the health risks are. And the surveys we’ve done make it very clear that the vast majority of people are not aware of those risks,” he said. 

Donnelly said he is not concerned that some other EU member states have issues with the move. 

“We’ve been through a process with the EU and we now have the green light from the EU and that’s why I’ve now signed the commencement order,” he said. 

“We’ve also been through a process with the World Trade Organization. There was a particular set of processes required with both groups that needed to be gone through and cleared before we proceeded. They’ve now both been gone through and we are therefore proceeding.” 

Campaign group Alcohol Action Ireland described it as a very significant development in alcohol policy. 

“We commend Minister Donnelly for his leadership in this action,” CEO Dr Sheila Gilheany said. 

“This measure goes some way to ensuring consumers are informed about some of the risks from alcohol.” 

With reporting by Press Association

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