The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly recently signed into law new alcohol labelling regulations that will require calorie count and additional health warnings to be printed on labels for the first time.
The new labelling rules are set out under the Public Health (Alcohol) (Labelling) Regulations 2023 and the provisions of Section 12 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018.
Section 12 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 and the Labelling Regulations introduce comprehensive health labelling of alcohol products sold in Ireland and provide that similar health information is to be available to customers of licensed premises.
The Public Health (Alcohol) Act was signed into law in 2018 to tackle the health concerns arising from the over-consumption and misuse of alcohol. The Act introduced a range of alcohol related measures, including minimum unit pricing (MUP) and restrictions on alcohol advertising.
Section 12 of the Act has now been signed into force. It provides that the labelling of alcohol products must include:
- The amount of pure alcohol as measured in grams
- The calorie count
- Health warnings regarding the danger of consuming alcohol, and specifically referring to (i) the danger of alcohol consumption when pregnant and (ii) the direct link to fatal cancers;
- Directions to a HSE public health website, which will give information on alcohol and related harms
The introduction of labelling requirements will require companies to create labels specific only to the Irish market. The regulations may be of particular concern for SMEs where the cost and logistical impact may influence their decision to trade in the Irish market.
The Irish Government notified the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in February of its plans to introduce the Labelling Regulations. More than 10 countries, including the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and Cuba, raised their concerns with the WTO that the move is a barrier to international trade.
13 EU member states including France, Italy and Spain have formally objected or raised concerns with the European Commission. A number of organisations representing wine, beer and spirits producers lodged official complaints to the Commission to open infringement proceedings against Ireland for undermining the Single Market.
There is a three year lead-in time built into the law to give businesses time to prepare for the changes.
The penalties for non-compliance are substantial. If a person is found guilty of an offence under the various sections of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act, they will be liable to pay substantial fines and/or imprisonment.
- Sale of an alcohol product which does not comply with labelling requirements– a fine up to €100,000 and/or up to two years in prison, on indictment
- If the breach is continued after being convicted, the person may be liable for a fine of €2,000 per day
The regulations will apply from 22 May 2026. These will require careful consideration from those selling alcohol products on the Irish market, and to prepare to change labels within the next three years.