23.05.2023 - Ireland has made a significant stride in public health policy with a historic move that sets a precedent globally. The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, has signed into law the Public Health (Alcohol) (Labelling) Regulations 2023, as well as the remaining provisions of Section 12 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act.
This legislation mandates comprehensive health labelling for all alcohol products sold in Ireland, a first-of-its-kind initiative worldwide. It also ensures similar health information will be readily available in licensed premises.
Among the requirements, the labels on alcohol products will list the calorie content and grams of alcohol. They will warn of the risk associated with consuming alcohol during pregnancy and of the danger of liver disease and fatal cancers resulting from alcohol consumption.
To complement these measures, the labels will direct consumers to the Health Service Executive (HSE) website, www.askaboutalcohol.ie, for further information. This new law will come into effect from 22 May 2026, offering businesses a three-year lead-in period to prepare for the significant changes.
Minister Donnelly stated, “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." He further noted the importance of bringing alcohol products into line with other food and drink products, which already contain health information and, where appropriate, health warnings.
The Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton, further emphasized, “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.”
Alcohol Action Ireland, a leading voice in alcohol policy advocacy, warmly welcomed the announcement. Dr Sheila Gilheany, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland, said, “This is a very significant development in alcohol policy and we commend Minister Donnelly for his leadership in this action."
Dr. Gilheany acknowledged the scale of alcohol-related harms in Ireland and highlighted that awareness about these risks is lacking. She urged the alcohol industry to act proactively and include these labels ahead of the stipulated date. "We are very aware that many countries have been closely observing Ireland’s progress in this regard and believe, that like the smoking ban, other jurisdictions will likely adopt similar labelling measures. We can be proud that Ireland is leading the way in this regard," she added.
In conclusion, Minister Donnelly declared, “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.”
With the enactment of this new law, Ireland takes a significant step forward in tackling the health risks associated with alcohol consumption. It is hoped that other countries will take inspiration from Ireland's example and implement similar measures in the near future, contributing to a global effort to reduce alcohol-related harm.