In December 2017, Seanad Éireann (Upper House, Irish Parliament) passed the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, 2015. The Bill, which was sent forward to Dáil Éireann (Lower House) for consideration, contained amendments, debated and passed by the Senators, which provided additional provisions on labelling alcohol products, regulating alcohol display and broadcast advertising, than those introduced in December, 2015.

As these were additional to the Bill notified to the EU Commission in 2016, the Government of Ireland were obliged to re-notify the amendment Bill to the Commission and the Member States of the European Union.

This re-notification process commenced on the 19th January 2018. As guided by the TRIS process – (EU) 2015/1535, and opened an initial three-month period for consultation.

The (EU) 2015/1535 procedure aims to prevent creating barriers in the internal market before they materialize. Member States notify their legislative projects regarding products and Information Society services to the Commission which analyses these projects in the light of EU legislation. Member States participate on the equal foot with the Commission in this procedure and they can also issue their opinions on the notified drafts.

The consultation process closed on 20th April, 2018, at which time the Commission had received ‘Comments’ from Denmark, France, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom and ‘Detailed Opinions’ from Italy and Portugal. As a consequence of these Detailed Opinions, the TRIS consultation process has now been further extended to the 20th July, 2018, to allow further consider by the Commission.

The ‘Comments’ from the EU Commission outlines a series of concerns with the technical application of the measures proposed and their capacity to be barriers to trade but ‘without prejudice to the assessment by the Commission of the health warning under EU Regulation No.1169/2011’.

The consultation has also been informed by contributions from Europe’s leading public health advocates:

U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance, Cancer Research UK, Irish Medical Organisation, European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), Irish Cancer Society, Alcohol Justice, EASL, The Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME), Nordic Alcohol and Drug Policy Network, Alcohol Focus Scotland, Royal College of Physicians, World Cancer Research Fund International, IOGT-NTO, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, Institute of Alcohol Studies, European Alcohol Policy Alliance, and United European Gastroenterology

along with submissions from industry representative groups: Spirit Suisse, Distilled Spirits Council (US), Winemakers Federation of Australia, FIVS, New Zealand Winegrowers and Spirits Canada.

These can viewed on:

This process has been closed. A further ‘Detailed Opinion’ was received from Bulgaria and ‘Comment’ from Poland, and the Commission.

Further Notification Process 2022

The  Public Health (Alcohol) legislation completed all stages of parliamentary debate in October 2018. Section 12 of the Act 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 (PHAA).

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 working closely with our partners, Eurocare and The European Public Health Alliance, led a campaign to encourage public health advocates to make supportive submissions to the process during the consultation period. By the closing of 22 Sept 2022, 60 such submissions were made representing 70% of all submissions. The European Commission considered its position until 22 December 2022. A number of opinions and comments were made by Member States objecting to the regulations. No objections were made by the Commission.

In a response to a European Parliamentary Question re the Irish labelling regulations issued on 14 March 2023, Stella Kyriakides European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety 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. 

On 6  February 2023, the Irish Government notified the World Trade Organisation (WTO) about the alcohol labelling regulations. WTO member states can make comments on the regulations up to 7 May 2023.

AAI also welcome moves in the EU to revise the Regulation on Food Information to Consumers to provide for nutritional information on alcohol products. We also warmly endorse the EU Beating Cancer plan with its proposal to have health warning labels before the end of 2023. Ireland’s PHAA labeling 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.