Public Health (Alcohol) Bill: Labelling

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Consumers should have the right to make informed decisions about the products they purchase, especially those, such as alcohol, which can be harmful to their health.

Health warnings are now a familiar and prominent feature on tobacco products in Ireland, while detailed nutritional labelling is ubiquitous on food products and soft drinks. However, consumer information on alcohol products at the moment generally extends no further than its volume strength (ABV).

That the health labelling of alcohol products is included in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, to track our alcohol intake it is essential that we have accurate information on the alcohol content of specific drinks.

It is important to know how much we are drinking if we are trying to stay within the low-risk weekly guidelines for alcohol consumption and it becomes even more important to track our alcohol intake when you consider that the most comprehensive survey of alcohol consumption ever carried out in Ireland revealed that we significantly underestimate how much we drink.

Labelling will also help drinkers understand the health risks associated with alcohol, such as those associated with drinking during pregnancy. The level of public awareness or understanding of many of the health problems associated with alcohol consumption, such as the cancer risk, are quite low, as is awareness of the amount of calories contained in alcohol products.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill states that labels on alcohol products will have to detail:

  • A health warning to inform the public of the danger of alcohol consumption.
  • A health warning to inform the public of the danger of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
  • The quantity of grams of alcohol contained in the product.
  • The number of calories contained in the alcohol product.
  • A link to a public health website, to be set up by the HSE, giving information on alcohol and related harms.

As well as the labels on alcohol products themselves, those selling alcohol, whether in pubs or the off-trade, will be required to display a notice containing the health warnings mentioned above, the link to the public health website, and indicating to the customer that the alcohol and calorie content of alcohol products is on the products themselves or, for all ’poured drinks’, can be found in a document, which must be made available upon request.

Following a consultation conducted by the Department of Health, it has been decided that there will be a three-year transition period before manufacturers and retailers of alcohol products will have to comply fully with the labelling requirements.

Follow this link to read the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.