Ireland is to become the first country in the world to mandate health labelling on alcoholic drinks to alert people to calorie content, grams of alcohol, risks of cancer and liver disease and dangers of drinking while pregnant.
The health minister, Stephen Donnelly, signed the legislation on Monday and said he looked forward to other countries following the example – a prospect that has worried Italy’s winemakers and people in several other EU member states.
The law would take effect from 22 May 2026 to give businesses time to adapt to a policy that mimics existing rules for other food and drink products, said Donnelly. “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.”
Hildegarde Naughton, the minister for public health, wellbeing and the national drugs strategy, said medical evidence showed even low levels of alcohol consumption incurred a cancer risk.
Alcoholic drink providers will be compelled to display the information and warnings on product packaging and also to direct consumers to the website of Ireland’s Health Service Executive for further information on alcohol consumption. Similar information will also be made available in pubs and other licensed premises.
Alcohol consumption in Ireland peaked in 2001 when the average person drank 14.3 litres of pure alcohol a year. That has fallen to 10.2 litres, according to the Health Research Board.
The European Commission did not object to Ireland’s plan, which the government flagged last year, despite protests from Italy, Spain and six other EU member states.
Coldiretti, Italy’s biggest farmers’ association, described the “terrifying” warnings as a “direct attack”. “The green light from the European Union for alarmist wine labels in Ireland represents a dangerous precedent as it risks opening the door to other legislation capable of negatively influencing consumer choices.”