The Act relates to the sale, labelling, advertising, marketing, and display of alcohol products. Beer made from malt (HS code(s): 2203); Wine of fresh grapes, incl. fortified wines; grape must, partly fermented and of an actual alcoholic strength of > 0,5% vol or grape must with added alcohol of an actual alcoholic strength of > 0,5% vol (HS code(s): 2204); Vermouth and other wine of fresh grapes, flavoured with plants or aromatic substances (HS code(s): 2205); Cider, perry, mead and other fermented beverages and mixtures of fermented beverages and non-alcoholic beverages, n.e.s. (excl. beer, wine or fresh grapes, grape must, vermouth and other wine of fresh grapes flavoured with plants or aromatic substances) (HS code(s): 2206); Undenatured ethyl alcohol of an alcoholic strength of < 80%; spirits, liqueurs and other spirituous beverages (excl. compound alcoholic preparations of a kind used for the manufacture of beverages) (HS code(s): 2208)
Public Health (Alcohol) (Labelling) Regulations 2022 (18 pages, in English)
The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill was notified to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade in 2016. Section 12 of that Bill contained the obligation to provide health information and health warnings on the labels of alcohol products and in other settings. The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill was subsequently enacted in 2018. Draft Regulations under Section 12 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 are currently being notified to the TBT Committee of the WTO. These draft regulations provide the detail in relation to the health warnings and health information. The draft regulations do not contain the requirement for such warnings as this is contained in section 12 and this was enacted in 2018.
The consumption of alcohol has been identified as causing significant public health harm in Ireland. In response to this threat, the Irish Government enacted the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 for the protection of human health.
Under Section 12 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act, the Minister for Health is empowered to make regulations to require that the labels of alcohol products should contain:
i. A warning to inform people of the danger of alcohol consumption.
ii. A warning to inform people of the danger of alcohol consumption when pregnant.
iii. A warning to inform people of the direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers.
iv. The quantity of grams of alcohol contained in the product.
v. The number of calories contained in the alcohol product.
vi. A link to a health website which gives information on alcohol and related harms.
In addition, section 12 provides that those selling alcohol in on-licenced premises 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.
The draft labelling regulations apply to all alcohol products sold in Ireland, whether produced locally or imported into the State.
The draft regulations notified to the WTO, TBT provide the detail for the obligation under section 12. In relation to the requirements for health warnings, the requirement under 12(i) to provide for a warning to inform people of the danger of alcohol consumption has been specified as a warning on the risk of liver disease. In addition, the requirement for a pregnancy warning under 12(ii) can be fulfilled through using a specified pictogram. The health website required at 12(vi) is www.askaboutalcohol.ie.
The draft regulations also provide that for alcohol products which have a small surface area the health warnings and information can be of a smaller size or a flag label can be used. Finally, the regulations specify that websites which sell alcohol products must display the same information as would be available to the consumer in a physical shop so that the online consumer has all the information at the point of purchase.
The purpose of this provision is to ensure that important and necessary public health information is communicated to the Irish consumer at the point of purchase so that the consumer can make an informed choice about their alcohol consumption. In addition, evidence shows that health information on the labels of alcohol products leads to a reduction in alcohol consumption and therefore in the health harms caused by alcohol.
Currently, there is no regulatory requirement for the display of health warnings or health information on alcohol products sold in Ireland. This is despite the well settled scientific evidence that alcohol causes conditions such as alcoholic liver disease and alcohol induced pancreatitis as well as cancers, cardiovascular disease and other conditions being attributable to alcohol. Ireland's objective is to reduce the disease and death caused by the way alcohol is currently consumed here and to do so using methods that do not exceed what is necessary to achieve that objective. In the case of labelling, Ireland is taking the minimal action of requiring the risks associated with the product to be stated for the benefit of the consumer.