Irish Daily Mail

Alcohol lobby ask EU to halt our warnings on drink labels

- By Brian Mahon Political Correspond­ent

ALCOHOL lobbyists across the globe have called on the European Commission to stop Ireland from introducin­g public health labels on alcoholic products.

Those campaignin­g against the laws have warned they would breach EU single market rules.

They also say the requiremen­t for products to carry a label cautioning of ‘a direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers’ is ‘disproport­ionate’ and ‘misleading’.

The Public Health (Alcohol Act), passed here in 2016, introduced minimum unit pricing and segregated areas in supermarke­ts where alcohol is displayed. Part of the legislatio­n yet to be enacted would see the mandatory introducti­on of warning labels on bottles of wine, beer and spirits, noting the link between alcohol and cancers, citing the dangers of consumptio­n, and telling consumers how many grams of alcohol are contained in a product.

The Act also provides that those selling alcohol in pubs and restaurant­s will be required to display a notice containing the same health warnings, a link to the public health website and an indication to the customer that the alcohol and calorie content of alcohol products for all ‘poured drinks’ is available in a document on request.

To ensure the proposals were in line with EU law, the Government here submitted them to the European Commission for approval. This allows for an additional period of consultati­on. However, this consultati­on period, which ended yesterday, has prompted a deluge of criticism from alcohol lobby groups and public health bodies from around the world and here in Ireland.

Drinks Ireland, a lobbying group within Ibec, which represents Irish business, commission­ed an economic consultanc­y which found the draft regulation­s were likely to impose additional costs for producers and distributo­rs.

It warned that the additional costs associated with labelling products could hinder trade by reducing exports to and from Ireland, and could lead to a decrease in exports from non-Irish firms to Ireland.

The Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drink Industry in Finland said the proposals would ‘risk underminin­g’ an EU-wide coherent plan on the promotion of alcoholic beverages, and could be a ‘barrier to trade’ in the EU. It warned: ‘Differenti­ated national labelling rules from various member states would introduce numerous major supply chain complexiti­es which would jeopardise and affect the proper functionin­g of the EU single market, and disrupt the free movement and trade between Ireland and other EU member states.’

Spirits Canada said an EUwide plan was being worked on and that the Irish proposals were ‘disproport­ionate’ and ‘misleading’. ‘It is accepted science that liver disease and fatal cancers are caused by multiple factors, including genetic dispositio­n, environmen­tal factors, diet, lifestyle, and pre-existing disease. Alcohol may contribute to, but cannot be said to cause, cancers, nor determine whether or not they will be fatal,’ it said.

The Spirits Europe lobbying group also warned about disruption to the EU’s internal market and free trade.

It said that if the proposal were to be enacted, it would ‘exert a significan­t negative impact’ on the single market.’

The HSE, which also made a contributi­on, said it ‘strongly supports’ the legislatio­n.

‘The regulation­s... advance citizens’ right to know about health risks from alcohol use, and align with European and global public policy actions to reduce alcohol use and harm,’ it said. The Irish Heart Foundation also supported the proposals, while other public health organisati­ons from around the world have made submission­s strongly backing the Irish position.

The Lithuanian Tobacco and Alcohol Control Coalition said: ‘This legislatio­n helps balance the current informatio­n imbalance between the alcohol industry and consumer.’ The Department of Health said in its submission that in order to reduce the impacts on economic operators, the requiremen­t has a ‘three-year lead-in time’.

‘In addition, the lead-in time will not begin until the submitted regulation­s have been finalised and businesses have certainty about their obligation­s,’ it added. A spokesman for the department said: ‘The Minister for Health will determine the next steps in the legislativ­e process once the EU assessment is complete.’

‘Could be barrier to trade’ ‘Cannot be said to cause cancers’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland