Ministers for Health bring into law the world’s first comprehensive health labelling of alcohol products
The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly T.D., has signed into law the Public Health (Alcohol) (Labelling) Regulations 2023 and the remaining provisions of Section 12 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act.
Section 12 and the Labelling Regulations together introduce comprehensive health labelling of alcohol products sold in Ireland and provide that similar health information will be available for customers in licensed premises.
The law provides that the 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, www.askaboutalcohol.ie, for further information.
There is a three-year lead-in time built into the law in order to give businesses significant 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 of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton T.D., added: “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.”
Minister 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.”
Notes to Editor:
- Light to moderate drinking levels caused almost 23,000 new cancer cases in 2017; almost half of these were female breast cancers. [Report on Alcohol and cancer in the WHO European Region (2020)]
- 60% of drinkers engaged in monthly heavy episodic drinking with 24% doing so on a weekly basis. [The National Drug and Alcohol survey findings for the period 2019-2020]
- In 2019, an estimated 4.8% of all deaths here and 5.2% of disability adjusted life years were attributable to alcohol according to Global Burden of Disease data.
- The average length of hospital stays for patients with alcohol-related diagnoses increased from 6.0 days in 1995 to 10.3 days in 2018, which suggests that illnesses are becoming more complex and taking longer to treat. The number of hospital bed days used due to these conditions has also significantly increased in the same period, from 56,264 (in 1995) to 177,892 (in 2018).
- The evidence from the Healthy Ireland survey, carried out annually and based on a nationally representative sample of over 7,000 respondents, is that significant numbers of Irish consumers are unaware of the risk of health harms from alcohol consumption. Results from these annual surveys include the following:
- o Asked whether it is safe to consume a small amount of alcohol while pregnant, 7% of respondents believed it to be safe and 9% did not know.
- o 79% were unaware of the risk of breast cancer associated with drinking more than recommended amounts and 60% were unaware of the bowel cancer risk.
- o 52% were unaware of the increased risk of stomach ulcers and 49% were unaware of a relationship between alcohol consumption and high blood pressure.
- o Those aged between 15 and 24 were typically less aware of the risk associated with heavy drinking than other age groups.