Warning labels on alcohol products

Sir, – Patricia nMsCallan of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (August 2nd) fails to acknowledge that every day three people will die from alcohol-related harms, many largely unaware of the risk associated with alcohol consumption. Introducing warnings on labels of alcoholic beverages is an important component of public health policy to reduce alcohol related harm. If conspicuously and prominently displayed, health messages can, as European Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis recently stated, "raise awareness and encourage a change in perception of the risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption". This reflects the policy direction of the World Health Organisation's strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, and most recently, the discussion paper from the Codex Commission's Committee on Food Labelling.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which still awaits enactment 1,000 days after being introduced to the Oireachtas, reflects the WHO policy direction with the objective to reduce Ireland’s excessive patterns of alcohol consumption and resultant social, economic and health harms. Fundamentally, this objective will not be realised without selling less alcohol. Regrettably all current economic indicators demonstrate that alcohol consumption is continuing to rise in Ireland.

At an EU level, since 2011, the alcohol industry has been granted an exemption from the obligation to provide product information to consumers, having lobbied effectively to ensure that no such “pan-European” labelling measures exists for alcohol beverages above 1.2 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV).

In 2017, the European Commission rejected that exemption for alcohol products, stating that “consumers have the right to be fully informed about their drinks and there are no objective grounds to justify the absence of a list of ingredients and nutritional information on alcoholic beverages”. Despite being afforded the opportunity to establish a “self-regulatory concerted proposal”, the alcohol industry submitted a wholly inadequate, annexed sectoral proposal in March 2018, which is currently under the European Commission’s assessment.


The actions of the alcohol industry speak much clearer than its words. – Yours, etc,


Head of Communications and Advocacy,

Alcohol Action Ireland,

Coleraine House,

Coleraine Street,

Dublin 7.