Under the new rules, alcohol labels will have to contain a warning to inform people of the danger of alcohol consumption; the danger of drinking when pregnant; and the link between alcohol and cancer.
Products will also have to contain information such as the quantity of grams of alcohol and the number of calories.
Similar health information will be made available for customers in licensed premises.
The new rules will come into effect in May 2026.
'Empowering people to make informed decisions about alcohol'
The Irish government says that 'significant numbers' of Irish consumers are unaware of the risk of health harms from alcohol consumption.
Signing into law the Public Health (Alcohol)(Labelling) Regulations 2023, Stephen Donnelly, minister for health, 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.
"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."
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
The Irish Cancer Society is one of the health organizations welcoming the move.
Director of Advocacy, Rachel Morrogh, said: “Health labelling will empower people to make informed decisions about alcohol by raising awareness of the risk it poses to health.
The Healthy Ireland survey, based on a nationally representative sample of over 7,000 respondents, found that:
- 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
- 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
- 52% were unaware of the increased risk of stomach ulcers and 49% were unaware of a relationship between alcohol consumption and high blood pressure
- those aged between 15 and 24 were typically less aware of the risk associated with heavy drinking than other age groups
"Alcohol is attributable to 1,000 cases of cancer in Ireland every year, and advocating for measures that will reduce this number has been a key focus of the Irish Cancer Society over recent years.
“This announcement shows that once again, Ireland is trailblazing in the area of public health legislation.
"Signing the labelling regulations into law is a clear statement that reducing preventable disease is a priority for Government.”
However, European alcohol organizations have criticized the new regulations, alleging they breach EU law because they deviate from EU harmonised labelling rules (thus making it more difficult for non-Irish producers and distributors to sell their products in the country).
Last week, spiritsEurope and wine industry organization Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins (CEEV) announced they had submitted formal complaints asking the European Commission to open an infringement procedure against Ireland.
spiritsEUROPE says Ireland’s new regulations represent a ‘disproportionate trade barrier… that would not be justifiable in light of the public evidence put forward by Ireland’.
It wants Ireland to put the new rules on hold and await EU harmonized labelling rules for alcoholic beverages: highlighting that the European Commission has already said (via its Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan) that it would look into a proposal for health related information on alcoholic beverages.
CEEV, meanwhile, comments on the ‘inexplicable failure of the European Commission to act and defend the EU law and EU Single market’ (Ireland informed the European Commission of its intention to introduce the new labels in June last year; an because it did not receive any formal objections from the Commission in the following six months, that equates to tacit approval.)