International opposition to Alcohol Bill highlights disproportionate nature of proposed legislation

Monday, 30 April 2018

Opposition from Italy and Portugal to measures in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 highlights the need for amendments to be made to the legislation, according to Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), the representative body for drinks manufacturers and suppliers in Ireland.

The requirement for Irish-only labels, including a cancer warning label, to be included on all products sold in the Republic of Ireland, covering at least one-third of all printed materials has emerged as a hugely contentious aspect of the Alcohol Bill, as it is expected to create a trade barrier.

In addition to Italy and Portugal, the EU Commission has also said that the labelling proposals may conflict with EU law. Outside of the EU, the government agency responsible for developing and recommending United States trade policy to the President of the United States has warned that proposed measures in the Alcohol Bill could “detrimentally impact the ability of U.S. exporters to reallocate product in the European market” and notes that proposals in the Bill diverge from EU-wide requirements.

Patricia Callan Director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) said:

“No other country in the EU, or indeed the world, has introduced mandatory cancer warnings on alcohol products, making Ireland completely out of step with the rest of the EU at a time when certainty for trade is imperative with Brexit.

“Introducing Irish-only labels will impose significant costs on Irish producers and distributors because they will be required to develop labels specifically for the Irish market and a second set of labels for elsewhere. Likewise, producers and distributors that supply products to Ireland (i.e. such as Italian and Portuguese wine producers) will have to create labels specifically for the Irish market, which will also be costly and logistically difficult.

“We are concerned that these proposals are not evidence based, are unlikely to achieve their objective, and that they will constitute a barrier to trade within the EU. Last week, EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan confirmed in the Seanad that the Bill will be delayed for three months due to concerns raised by Italy and Portugal, as the Irish Government will have to respond to these concerns. A further seven countries submitted comments on the Bill, as well as the European Commission itself, which illustrates the significant interest in the Bill and international concerns with regard to certain measures being proposed.

“It should be noted that harmonised regulation in the area of drinks labelling is currently being developed at an EU level and last month a new EU-wide commitment by drinks producers to provide more nutritional information and listing of ingredients was presented to the EU Commission, with the aim of implementing it across member states in such a way that avoids potential barriers to trade.

“We are calling on the Government to make reasonable amendments to the Alcohol Bill to avoid disruptions to trade within the EU.”