Ireland is set to introduce the world’s first comprehensive health labelling on alcohol products. The new legislation is set to come into force on 22 May 2026, having been signed into law on Monday by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
The mandatory labelling on alcohol products will state the grams of alcohol in the product, along with the calorie content. They will also have to warn about the risk of cancers and liver disease from alcohol consumption, along with the risk of consuming alcohol in pregnancy.
Similar health information will be available for customers in licensed premises across Ireland.
A three year lead-in time has been built into the law in order to give Irish businesses time to prepare.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that the law would mean people “can make an informed decision” about alcohol consumption.
“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 said.
The Health Minister alluded to how packaging of other food and drink products “already contains health information and, where appropriate, health warnings” and the new law is “bringing alcohol products into line with that.”
“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.”
Ireland is to become the first country in the world to introduce comprehensive health warning labels on alcohol products. I’ve signed the regulations so that from May 2026 labels must contain details of calorie content, grams of alcohol and risks of liver disease and cancer. pic.twitter.com/LHBBnaRkyZ
— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) May 22, 2023
He also welcomed the fact that Ireland has become the first country in the world to bring in such legislation, adding that he looked forward to other countries “following our example”.
While the move has been welcomed by campaign groups including Alcohol Action Ireland – who said the legislation was significant in ensuring people were informed about the risks of alcohol – others are more cynical about the importance of the law.
“This will achieve absolutely nothing, apart from a lot of trouble for small wine importers and wine producers,” restaurant critic and Sunday Times columnist Tom Doorley said.
Others pointed out how Minister Donnelly turned off public replies to his Tweet about the new law – with some claiming this was evidence of the unpopularity of the new law.
Many argued the legislation would be costly in the long-term, while some said it was an example of Ireland’s status as a “nanny state”.
“Utter waste of time and money,” one Twitter user wrote regarding the law, while others accused the Government of getting its priorities wrong and failing to tackle bigger issues such as hospital waiting lists.
Former Fine Gael councillor Keith Redmond was also critical of the legislation, tweeting that the move would have implications for wine and beer manufacturers.
“Ireland has the most nanny state government in the western world,” he said. “The implication of this is that wine and beer manufacturers will put labels on their products saying they cause cancer or not sell to the tiny Irish market. What do you think will happen?”
Ireland has the most nanny state government in the western world.
The implication of this is that wine and beer manufacturers will put labels on their products saying they cause cancer or not sell to the tiny Irish market. What do you think will happen? https://t.co/Mwr2KcP9Bh
— Keith Redmond (@ExCllrRedmond) May 22, 2023