Warning that alcohol bill could see foreign magazines taken off Irish shelves

The ABFI claim the requirement for Irish-only labels could create a trade barrier

Warning that alcohol bill could see foreign magazines taken off Irish shelves

Various women's magazines lie on a shelf at a kiosk in Gruenwald, Germany in 2012 | Image: Andreas Gebert/DPA/PA Images

It has been claimed that the new Public Health (Alcohol) Bill here could negatively impact trade in the EU.

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), the representative body for drinks manufacturers and suppliers, says the requirement for Irish-only labels is expected to create a trade barrier.

This could include 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.

It says the legislation means that at present, a magazine distributed all over Europe that contains advertisements for alcoholic products would need to be reprinted before it was lawfully marketed in Ireland.

The European Commission has submitted comments to the Irish Government in relation to the bill.

The commission has criticised the proposed requirement that at least one-third of the printed material on drinks products will be given over to health warnings.

It said that it "is very concerned about the impact that this requirement will have on the export of alcoholic beverages to Ireland".

It said that it considers the size of the warnings to be disproportionate, and questioned whether the same objective - to tackle alcohol misuse - could be achieved if the health warning has a smaller, yet visible, size.

General view of a selection of fashion magazines | Image: Edward Smith/EMPICS Entertainment

Patricia Callan, director of the ABFI, said: "The comments from the European Commission confirm the need for the Irish Government to make a number of reasonable amendments to the Alcohol Bill, as it states that the same overall objective of reducing alcohol misuse could be achieved through less trade restrictive measures.

"The drinks industry, like the European Commission, supports the overall objectives of the Alcohol Bill to tackle harmful and underage drinking in Ireland.

"However, its's clear some of the advertising and labelling provisions are not proportionate and will represent a barrier to trade in the EU.

"We are calling on the Government to remove the requirement for cancer warnings on alcohol products, and a requirement that health warnings take up at least one-third of the label and other printed material."

A number of member states have also stated that they are worried about this legislation - with Italy and Portugal expressing concerns about the prospect of cancer warnings being added on drink labels, and seven other countries submitting comments on the new amendments.

Alcohol Action Ireland rejects some of ABFI's assertions, saying: "The EU Commission does not, as ABFI suggest, 'heavily' criticise the Public Health objectives of the Bill but merely highlights some 'concerns', many of which have been raised in previous incidence of member state action and seeks clarity on the application of regulation such as those outlined for labelling, advertising and broadcasting."

Eunan McKinney, from Alcohol Action Ireland, said: "Like all good working partnerships, we have no doubt that the Government’s intentions to protect public health in Ireland can, and will, be explained to the commission, and any remaining concerns alleviated through careful dialogue and explanation.

"The last thing the Public Health Alcohol Bill needs right now after six years of debate is further amendment.

"The bill, as developed, is a modest and reasonable legislative framework that enables society to seriously tackle our ongoing difficulty with alcohol, and to maintain a fresh momentum, that in time, can reduce our alcohol consumption levels to within a low-risk levels."

The draft law is currently before the Dáil, having taken two years to make its way through the Seanad.