Urgent need for implementation of health warning labels on alcohol products 

Implement labelling regulations provided for under the Public Health Alcohol Act (2018) without further delay, experts say amid concern for alcohol-related diseases and conditions 

16/05/23: Health information labels on alcohol products need to be urgently implemented in order that consumers are informed about the risks of consuming alcohol, Alcohol Action Ireland has said ahead of an event to raises awareness about the issue (details in editor’s notes). 

In order to reiterate the importance of health warning labels, Alcohol Action Ireland is bringing together experts from the three areas that labelling will address: liver disease, drinking alcohol in pregnancy which can lead to FASD and the alcohol /cancer link.  

“It’s almost 5 years since laws were passed to provide for health information labelling of alcohol product and despite ferocious opposition from global vested interests, the groundbreaking regulations have now been successfully through the EU notification process and are nearing the completion of a similar process with the World Trade Organisation. It is no surprise, though, to see reports this week of alcohol industry efforts seeking further delays to the implementation of these regulations by lodging a complaint with the EU Commission. 

These delaying tactics are part of a well-established playbook from an industry which has sought at every opportunity to delay, dilute and derail the very modest measures within the Public Health Alcohol Act which provides for the labelling regulations.  

A recently published study in the Lancet found that four harmful commodity industries (tobacco, ultra-processed food, fossil fuel, and alcohol) are responsible for at least a third of global deaths per year. 

Telling people upfront about the risks of consumption of a substance which is widely available from corner stores to supermarkets, is the right thing to do and we commend the Minister for Health’s commitment to upholding consumers’ right to know the risks.” AAI CEO Sheila Gilheany said. 

Speaking ahead of the event, Prof John Ryan, Consultant Hepatologist/Gastroenterologist and General Physician, Beaumont Hospital, Clinical Lead for Hepatology, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor, RCSI said:  

“There are high levels of alcohol-related liver disease in Ireland and we are seeing increasing numbers of younger people with the illness. Warning labels will go some way to raising awareness that alcohol can cause liver disease and other health issues. For too long the alcohol industry has been the main source of information about its product through its relentless marketing machine. People have a right to know the risks of what they are consuming.” 

Rachel Morrogh, Director of Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society commented:  

‘The Irish Cancer Society has strongly advocated for cancer warnings on alcohol products. We’ve taken this position because we want fewer people to be diagnosed with alcohol-related cancers. Our nurses hear every day from families who are devastated by this disease. Unfortunately, despite alcohol being a known carcinogen for over 40 years, there is a low level of public awareness of the cancer risks from alcohol. Research published by Alcohol Action Ireland last year showed that the majority of the population supported the introduction of health information on alcohol products so they could increase this level of awareness and make an informed choice about alcohol consumption. Around 1,000 people will be diagnosed with an alcohol-related cancer this year and we want every effort made at a Government level to help drive this number down. We warmly welcome the progress that is being made in this area and believe labelling will play a part in helping people understand the risks.’  


Caterina Giorgi, CEO FARE said: ‘Alcohol causes too much harm to far too many families and communities across the globe. By introducing these health warnings, the Minister for Health in Ireland has the opportunity to lead change that will save lives and improve the health and wellbeing of families and communities for generations to come. This will have a profound effect not just on the health of people in Ireland but also for other countries who are looking to create meaningful change. In Ireland, alcohol companies have lobbied at every step to undermine the Public Health Alcohol Action Act watering down its impact and delaying many measures.’ 




Editor’s notes: 

For all media enquiries and interview requests, please contact: 

Hannah-Alice Loughlin, 

Advocacy and Communications Lead: hannah.loughlin@alcoholactionireland.ie 

M: 087 995 0186 

Other useful resources: Media guide re non-stigmatising language 


Register here for event: Get the facts – on the label (Webinar: Wednesday 17 May, 2.30pm-4pm) 


Nearly five years after legislation was passed in Ireland providing for health information labelling of alcohol products, these groundbreaking regulations are on course for implementation. But why are they necessary in Ireland? Rising levels of liver disease, low levels of public awareness of the alcohol /cancer link and sadly one of the highest levels of FASD in the world are just some of the reasons which will be explored in this event. 

We will also consider the international dimension to labelling and ask will Ireland’s progress encourage other jurisdictions to follow suit in seeking to ensure their citizens’ right to know the risks of alcohol? 


Prof Frank Murray, Event Chair 

Consultant Hepatologist and Gastroenterologist. Chair of Alcohol Action Ireland. 


Prof John Ryan 

Consultant Hepatologist/Gastroenterologist and General Physician, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin Clinical Lead for Hepatology, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor, RCSI 

A rising tide of liver disease 

Prof John Ryan will give an insight into the high levels of alcohol-related liver disease in Ireland and the increasing numbers of younger people with the illness. He will outline approaches in Beaumont Hospital to this serious health issue and highlight the lack of knowledge about the impact of alcohol use on health. 

Anne Doyle, Health Research Board 

Public awareness of the relationship between alcohol use and breast cancer risk 

Public awareness of the carcinogenic effects of alcohol is low, particularly the association between alcohol use and the risk of developing breast cancer. As breast cancer is the third most common cancer in Ireland and because of how much we drink and how we drink, it is important to understand who needs to be targeted, and how best to inform drinkers and those around them, to increase knowledge of this association. 

Anne Doyle is a Research Officer in the Health Research Board (HRB). Her work involves collating information about alcohol use and related harms in Ireland. She is passionate about promoting the use of this evidence to influence policy and practice to help reduce the harms associated with alcohol use. 

Caterina Giorgi,CEO FARE 

Visible pregnancy health warnings for alcohol in Australia 

We all want our families to have access to clear information about the health and safety of the products they buy – especially products that may harm our children. However, in Australia, alcohol products have never been legally required to carry a health warning about the risks alcohol can cause during pregnancy including miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, pre-term birth and FASD. 

That is all changing now. In July this year, a red, white and black warning on the risks of alcohol use in pregnancy is being mandated on all alcohol products and packaging. 

An effective health warning label on alcohol products was a small change that can make a big difference in the lives of many. This presentation explores the need for a health warning, the community support for the change and the advocacy that resulted in the Australian and New Zealand Government’s adopting a visible pregnancy health warning or alcohol. 

Caterina Giorgi is responsible for providing strategic leadership and direction as FARE works towards creating an Australia free from alcohol harm. 

Panel discussion with: 

Katie Dunphy, HSE Alcohol Programme 

Rachel Morrogh, Director of Advocacy and External Affairs, Irish Cancer Society