Warnings on labels to state link between alcohol and fatal cancers

The warning labels will also state the dangers of liver disease from over-consumption. Photo: Stock image

Eilish O'Regan

BOTTLES of wine, beer and spirits, as well as other alcohol products sold in Ireland will have to carry stark health warnings outlining direct links with drinking and fatal cancers .

They must also bear markings on the dangers of liver disease from over-consumption as well as the risk faced by unborn babies if pregnant women consume alcohol, with notices also in pubs.

The Government has notified the European Commission of its intention to introduce the labelling and to allow three months for other member states to respond.

The provisions are allowed for under the draft Public Health Regulations 2022. Once enforced, it would allow for mandatory warning labels on alcohol products and also on notices in pubs.

Commenting on the move, Eunan McKinney of Alcohol Action Ireland said: “This is a very important development in what is a very slow process.

“These national labelling regulations recognise that citizens have the right to know the inherent risk from alcohol use – a right currently denied.”

He said that by providing consumers with accurate, convenient and timely information on products, which is conspicuous and prominent, citizens will be able to make informed choices.

It would ensure no alcohol product can be sold without bearing a warning that says:

:: Drinking alcohol causes liver disease

:: There is a direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers

:: Alcohol consumption during pregnancy carries risk for the foetus (this will be illustrated by way of a symbol).

Once commenced, the regulations allow for alcohol producers to have another three years lead-in time to change their labelling.

The Department of Health’s ‘Healthy Ireland 2021’ survey showed 66pc of people have consumed alcohol in the previous six months, with those aged 15-24 (70pc) and men (68pc) most likely to do so.

Some 37pc of the population aged 15 and older drink alcohol at least once a week.

This compares to 41pc in the previous survey in 2018.

Meanwhile, 15pc of the population – 22pc of drinkers – binge drink on a typical drinking occasion.

This compares to 28pc, or 37pc of drinkers, in 2018

The survey found that 84pc of the population, and 90pc of women of reproductive age, correctly identified drinking during pregnancy as unsafe.

The recommended weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines are less than 11 standard drinks for women and 17 for men. Drinks should be spread out over the week.

The HSE advises to have two to three alcohol-free days per week. A standard drink is a small glass of wine, half a pint of beer or a pub measure of spirits. A bottle of wine, with an alcohol strength of 12.5pc, contains about seven standard drinks. The less a person drinks, the lower the risk of developing health issues.