The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, reversed his decision on cancer warnings on alcohol labels by reintroducing the move into the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.
The move has now been criticised by the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), that said that it will turn Ireland’s food and drinks industry into a ‘global pariah’.
The ABFI said that the “draconian proposal” will force ‘hugely damaging and misleading cancer warning labels on all alcohol products sold in Ireland, including craft beer, artisan gin and quality whiskey’, which will greatly hinder trade with international companies.
ABFI also said that measures in the Alcohol Bill should be proportionate and evidence-based and that the idea of picking and choosing one disease over the other health risks and/or benefits associated with alcohol consumption was confusing and nonsensical.
“We all agree that alcohol misuse and underage drinking should be addressed, and we support the objective of the Alcohol Bill in this regard. But it is imperative that the end result is a piece of legislation that is effective, evidence-based, compliant with EU law, and does not do undue harm to an important Irish industry,” said Patricia Callan, Director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland.
“As an industry, we support giving consumers factual information to help them make an informed choice about their health. But this is exactly why a sweeping and heavy-handed ‘alcohol causes cancer’ statement makes little sense.
Callan highlighted the many studies on alcohol consumption that show a “J-shaped relationship” between alcohol and health, where a low level of consumption can result in certain health benefits, whereas a high level of consumption is associated with increased health risks.
“The relationship between alcohol and health is complex, and it’s important that people are properly educated and informed about this. Focusing on one health issue alone (cancer) does not give a full or accurate picture to help consumers make an informed choice about their drinking.
“The World Health Organisation report published last week showed that most alcohol-related deaths worldwide in 2016 were as a result of injuries. This was followed by digestive diseases, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, infectious diseases, followed by cancers. Warning labels should be proportionate to the risks faced by consumers, but cancer labels would not give consumers a proportionate view of the impact of alcohol consumption.
“It is concerning that the Government is putting its own legislation at risk and is throwing up huge uncertainty by folding to pressure from the anti-alcohol lobby.”
The EU Commission spoke out about the deal in May, after it submitted its own comments to the Irish government, as it heavily criticised the requirement that at least one-third of printed material on drinks products will be given over to health warnings.
Speaking at the time, it said that it "is very concerned about the impact that this requirement will have on the export of alcoholic beverages to Ireland" and that it considers the size of the warnings to be disproportionate, as well as questioning whether the same objective could be achieved if the health warning has a smaller size.
The move caught the attention of leading commentator Joseph V Micallef, who on Forbes called-out the Irish government’s 'schizophrenic attitude toward the Irish whiskey industry’, claiming that the government has shot the industry in the foot.
© 2018 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Aidan O’Sullivan. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.