Irish Examiner

Alcohol warning change to labels

- Elaine Loughlin

Health labels including cancer warnings will cover one third of alcohol bottles under legislatio­n which has passed through the Seanad.

Minimum unit pricing and restrictio­ns on advertisin­g will also be introduced as part of the bill.

Campaign groups including the Irish Cancer Society welcomed the passing of all stages of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill through the Upper House yesterday.

However, Alcohol Action Ireland pointed out that the bill, which was the subject of much controvers­y and debate, was first introduced to Seanad Éireann 735 days ago. The group said that in that time, 2,205 lives have been lost to alcohol related illness, trauma and harm.

Alcohol labels will be required to provide informatio­n on ingredient­s, calories, and warnings around the links between drinking and cancer as part of the changes.

Under the new rules, these detailed labels will be required to take up one third of available space on alcohol products.

Speaking in favour of the changes, Senator Frances Black, who proposed the onethird labelling amendment along with Labour Senator Ged Nash, said: “I do not want to see a health warning introduced that amounts to a small run of text that simply will not make any difference.

“I am glad that the bill will introduce these warnings but they must be substantia­l in size and clarity.”

Senator James Reilly said said there is a lack of awareness about the carcinogen­ic effect of alcohol and also welcomed the inclusion of calorie details as he said it significan­tly contribute­s to obesity.

But the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) said the changes would be “devastatin­g” for the industry. “This increased cost will be particular­ly harmful for small local producers and new entrants,” said ABFI director Patricia Callan.

“The labelling requiremen­ts would act as a severe barrier to entry and such a measure would cause serious reputation­al damage to Ireland’s premium drinks products.”

Speaking in the Seanad, Mr Harris said: “Obviously we want to change behaviour and culture in Ireland in terms of alcohol. We want to particular­ly try and target and change behaviour and culture in the next generation of Irish citizens.”

Before being brought back to the Seanad for debate and voting yesterday, Mr Harris had tweaked the legislatio­n to include concession­s for small traders concerned about the financial impact of segregatin­g alcohol from other products in stores with ‘booze curtains’.

Retailers will now have the choice of three options for the display and sale of alcohol products.

They can separate alcohol from all other grocery products behind a non-seethrough barrier of at least 1.2m in height; can put alcohol in standalone cabinets, but where up to a height of 1.5m, the alcohol products are not visible; or have a maximum of three normal units or bays for the display and sale of alcohol products.

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