There is no harmonising EU legislation on the use of health warnings on alcohol beverage.

The current EU framework legislation on labelling provides an exemption to alcoholic drinks from having to include ingredients and nutritional information on the packaging.

The original framework food labelling directive initially provided no requirements relating to a need to indicate alcoholic strength, nor to list ingredients used in production.

The most comprehensive set of laws and regulatory requirements is set out in Regulation 1169/2011, which is directly applicable in Irish law.

The Regulation holds two key exemptions for alcoholic beverages: they do not need to carry a list of ingredients, and they are exempt from all nutrition labelling requirements.

Under Article 16(4) of 1169/2011:

‘By 13 December 2014, the Commission shall produce a report concerning the application of Art 18 and Article 30(1) … addressing whether alcohol beverages should in future be covered.’

The 2014 Report recommended that standardised guidelines were now necessary, and that regulation may be more effective than voluntary agreements.

The 2017 Report concluded that while current voluntary initiatives are being developed and implemented by industry, it invited industry to present within a year (March 2018) a self-regulatory proposal that would cover the entire sector of alcoholic beverages. If the Commission considered an approach proposed as unsatisfactory, it would launch an Impact Assessment to review further mandatory harmonised options.

On 12 March 2018, the European associations representing the alcoholic beverages sectors presented their self-regulatory proposal to the Commission

The proposed self-regulation contains a common commitment applying to the wine, cider, spirit and beer sectors, and is accompanied and complemented by sectoral annexes laying detailing the process and modalities for its implementation. Specifically, it determines a separate approach to each sector: wine, spirits, beer, etc., and the exclusive use of off-labelling presentation via a variety of online methods only: QR Code, a bar code or through other direct means using smart technologies.

Eurocare – European Alcohol Policy Alliance response to this development is available here: ‘We deserve better – reaction to alcohol industry self-regulatory proposal for labelling’.

There is now a proposal to revise the Regulation on Food Information to Consumers to provide for nutritional information on alcohol products with a number of consultations being carried out  and an Impact Assessment in the period 2020-2022. AAI has contributed to this consultation process. More details on the process here.

The 2021 European Commission’s action plan ‘Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan’ outlines a ‘political commitment to leave no stone unturned to take action against cancer’ and under the proposed prevention actions: ‘Saving lives through sustainable cancer prevention’, it outlines the need to ‘give people the information and tools they need to make healthier choices’ and in recognizing that ‘Alcohol-related harm is a major public health concern in the EU.
In 2016, cancer was the leading cause of alcohol-attributable deaths with a share of 29%, followed by liver cirrhosis (20%), cardiovascular diseases (19%) and injuries (18%)’ it proposes:
‘the Commission will review its promotion policy on alcoholic beverages and in addition propose a mandatory indication of the list of ingredients and the nutrition
declaration on alcoholic beverage labels before the end of 2022 and of health warnings on labels before the end 2023.


The Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 (PHAA) makes provision for the provision of health information labeling on alcohol products. In June 2022 Irish government notified the European Commission of Draft Regulations under Section 12 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018. This significant progress comes over 1,300 days since the legislation was enacted by the Irish parliament.

These regulations essentially establish the modalities of how the law will be applied on all alcohol products and how the information prescribed will be presented to the consumer in an On-Trade environment. The principal points of information to be convened on-product are:

  • A warning to inform people of the danger of alcohol consumption.
  • A warning to inform people of the danger of alcohol consumption when pregnant.
  • A warning to inform people of the direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers.
  • The quantity of grams of alcohol contained in the product.
  • The number of calories contained in the alcohol product.
  • A link to a health service website which gives information on alcohol and related harms.

The submission of the Draft Regulations to the European Commission triggers a period of a procedure that allows the Commission and the Member States of the EU to examine the technical regulations Member States intend to introduce for products (industrial, agricultural and fishery) and for Information Society services before their adoption, as well as allowing all stakeholders an opportunity to make their voices heard.

Alcohol Action Ireland led a campaign to encourage public health advocates to make supportive submissions to the process. 60 such submissions were made representing almost 70% of all submissions. 13 Member States issued detailed opinions or comments. The European Commission considered its position until 22 December 2022. No comment was issued by the Commission. This is entirely consistent with the EU’s 2011 regulation on the provision of food information to consumers which provides that Members States can also adopt national labelling measures provided they notify the European Commission and other member states in advance.This is a recognition of a Member State’s competency to adopt measures requiring mandatory particulars to on-product alcohol labelling on grounds of the protection of public health.

Stella Kyriakides European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety in a response on 14 March 2023 to a Parliamentary Question on the regulations noted: 

In the context of the analysis under the FIC Regulation, the Commission considered that the Irish authorities demonstrated that the notified measures were justified on public health grounds considering the situation in Ireland and that any resulting restrictions for the internal market that the measures may have were proportionate to the objective pursued……. Having analysed exclusively the draft measures notified in 2022, the Commission decided not to issue a reaction under the SMTD. 

In February 2023, the Irish Government notified the World Trade Organisation of its intention to proceed with Ireland’s labelling regulations.

AAI also welcome moves in the EU to revise the Regulation on Food Information to Consumers to provide for nutritional information on alcohol products. In addition we warmly endorse the EU Beating Cancer plan with its proposal to have health warning labels before the end of 2023. Ireland’s PHAA labelling regulations are in keeping with these proposals.

Given the high levels of alcohol harm in Ireland as outlined in our submission to the EU process it is essential that there is no further delay in progressing their implementation.