EU countries oppose Irish plans for alcohol health warnings

Concerns that intervention could delay bill to tackle harmful drinking

Irish plans for health warnings on alcohol products are being opposed by several EU countries.

France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Spain have all raised concerns about Ireland’s Public Health Alcohol Bill.

The legislation includes provisions to prevent the sale of very cheap alcohol, including mandatory health warnings, calorie labelling and a ban on broadcasting ads before 9pm.

The new programme for government includes a commitment to passing the bill, which aims to curb alcohol consumption.

The proposed law was approved last December and is currently at the second stage in the Seanad.

But 11 EU countries, including some of Europe's biggest beer and wine producers, are worried about its possible effect on trade.

Ireland has until the end of July to issue a response to each member state.

Dublin MEP Brian Hayes said today that he was concerned the intervention could delay the legislation.  

"Member states must be able to react to ongoing health concerns, which are particular to those member states, in a determined and coordinated way," he said.

"Health concerns and a proper response to Ireland's binge drinking culture are best tackled at a local level irrespective of internal market concerns."

Meanwhile, officials in the Department of Health are continuing to assess the implications of a European Court of Justice judgment on minimum alcohol pricing, which is also included in the bill. 

Last December, the court ruled that a Scottish plan to introduce a minimum unit price would breach EU law.