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Ireland Requires Health Warnings on Alcohol Products

Jul 25, 2023

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: Public Health Alcohol Labeling Regulations

Overview: Ireland’s Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, has signed into law an act requiring comprehensive health labeling on alcoholic beverages.

Location: Ireland

Population: 5.1 million

Food policy category: Public health, nutrition

Program goals: To keep the public informed about alcohol content and health risks associated with consuming alcohol in order to help consumers make healthy choices.

How it works: The law requires all products containing alcohol to be labeled with:

Warnings will be written in large, red, all-caps text. Pubs and liquor stores will also be required to display signage with the same information.

Labels will direct consumers to Ireland’s Health Care Executive web page on alcohol for more information.

Progress to date: In October 2018, Ireland passed the Public Health Alcohol Act with the following provisions:

The draft labeling requirements were published in June of 2022 and became law on May 22, 2023.

Why it is important: Over time, alcohol consumption may lead to chronic and potentially fatal health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, digestive issues, certain cancers (i.e. of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum), weakened immune system, learning and memory problems, depression, and anxiety. The World Health Organization reports that in the EU in 2017, light to moderate drinking was responsible for close to 23,000 new cancer cases.

In 2022, the annual Healthy Ireland Survey showed that two-thirds of respondents had consumed alcohol in the previous six months, 22 percent of Ireland’s total population aged 15 and older are considered to be binge drinkers, and more than half of survey respondents were unaware of several health risks associated with alcohol consumption.

Prominent health warnings will ensure that consumers are aware of the risks associated with drinking alcohol.

Program/Policy initiated: There will be a three-year grace period to allow businesses time to comply with the new law. Enforcement will begin on May 22, 2026.

Point of contact: N/A

Similar practices: Ireland claims to be the first country to pass a comprehensive alcohol labeling law, but other countries do have requirements for health warnings on alcohol to varying extents. In the United States, for example, any alcoholic beverage containing at least 0.5 percent alcohol by volume is required to have the following warning: “(1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.” Calorie content and specific health problems, however, are not provided.

Evaluation: Outcomes have not yet been measured, as the law will not go into effect until 2026. Health advocates support the alcohol labeling law, while many European winemakers, particularly those in Italy, France, and Spain, oppose it. The winemakers argue that the health risk claims are unnecessarily alarmist and that drinking wine in moderation actually has health benefits.

Learn more:


Policy name: Overview: Location: PopulationFood policy category: Program goals: How it works: Progress to date: Why it is important: Program/Policy initiated: Point of contact:Similar practices: Evaluation: Learn more:References: