What’s in the bottle: Ireland is the first EU nation to label alcohol goods for health 2023


Health information about alcohol products lets customers weigh the dangers. Ireland is the first EU country to label all alcohol goods with health warnings, including cancer warnings, from 2026.

On 22 May 2023, Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly signed the Public Health (Alcohol) (Labelling) Regulations 2023 and Section 12’s remaining requirements.

Ireland’s alcohol labels will include calories and alcohol grams under the laws. These labels will prominently warn against alcohol usage during pregnancy, liver illness, and alcohol-related malignancies.

Harms and ignorance

Alcohol may cause over 200 illnesses and disorders, including 7 forms of cancer, and devastate communities. In 2017, light to moderate drinking caused over 23,000 new cancer cases in the EU, half of which were breast cancers.

“The medical evidence is clear that a cancer risk applies even at lower levels of alcohol consumption,” stated Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing, and the National Drugs Strategy Hildegarde Naughton.

Due to significant alcohol-related harms in Ireland and inadequate consumer understanding of the health dangers of alcohol usage, obligatory health labelling on alcohol products was introduced.

The Irish Health Survey, done annually with over 7000 respondents, found that 7% felt it was acceptable to drink a little amount of alcohol while pregnant and approximately 80% were uninformed of breast cancer risks. Alcohol dangers were less known to 15–24-year-olds.

To know

Ireland empowers consumers to make better choices and avoid alcohol-related harms by giving vital information about health risks, alcohol levels, and calories.

Minister Donnelly stressed the importance of this step: “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. That knowledge lets us make educated alcohol use decisions.”

“Alcohol harm impacts us all – families, communities and society,” said WHO/Europe Regional Adviser for Alcohol, Illicit Drugs, and Prison Health Dr. Carina Ferreira-Borges. Instead than encouraging individuals to “drink responsibly,” we should raise knowledge of alcohol’s many hazards.

She continued, “WHO has long advocated for comprehensive labelling on alcohol products, recognizing that it can inform consumers about the risks associated with alcohol consumption so they can make informed choices. We applaud Ireland for prioritizing public health and creating an EU precedent with mandated alcohol labelling.”

Health reformers

Ireland will be the first to label all alcohol products with health information under the new rules. Ireland will be the first EU country and second worldwide (after South Korea) to add cancer warnings to alcohol products.

Irish health warning standards are pioneering because they specify size, color, and other design features to ensure message visibility. They need equivalent health information in permitted premises.

Minister Donnelly said, “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.”

WHO is ready to help countries implement evidence-based alcohol policies and treatments that emphasize health and well-being as Ireland leads this crucial effort.

WHO/Europe established the Evidence into Action Alcohol Project (EVID-ACTION) in 2022 with financing from the EU’s Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan to help nations implement comparable measures. Its key goals include building an evidence foundation on alcohol health warning labels with an emphasis on cancer risks, directing their design and development, and guiding their implementation.

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