Ireland becomes first nation to require cancer warning labels on alcohol
Ireland has approved a new law making the country first in the world to require cancer warning labels on alcoholic beverages.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly signed the Public Health Alcohol Labeling Regulations on Monday, which will require labels that show calorie content, grams of alcohol, risks of cancer and liver disease and the dangers of drinking while pregnant.
The law, however, won’t take effect until May 2026 to give businesses time to conform to the rules.
“I’ve signed the regulations so that … labels must contain details of calorie content, grams of alcohol and risks of liver disease and cancer,” Donnelly said in a statement posted to Twitter. In a separate statement to the country.
Donnelly noted the new labels would bring alcoholic beverages in line with other products that are already required to feature health risks on packaging.
“With that information, we can make an informed decision about our own alcohol consumption. Packaging of other food and drink products already contains health information and, where appropriate, health warnings. This law is bringing alcohol products into line with that.”
The controversial labeling plan gained previous approval from European Union and the World Trade Organization after booze makers around the world complained but failed to get the agencies to step in and block the measure.
The new labels will be required on all alcoholic drinks and will also appear on signage and displays inside pubs and liquor stores.
Health advocates welcomed the law, while European winemakers voiced the strongest opposition to the plan, arguing it was unproven that drinking wine could lead to increased risk of cancer.
The wine industry also urged Ireland to await a more favorable labeling system throughout the EU that would likely leave cancer off the list of consumption risks.
Civic organizations added more pressure to the issue Monday after sending a letter to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other European leaders urging increased action on health labeling for all products.
“On-label nutrition and ingredient information is the most appropriate and most practical way to respect consumers’ right to know,” the group wrote.
Lobbyists for the beverage industry warned the new law would lead to a major shortage of popular alcohol brands at Irish retailers due to packaging conflicts.