The United States, Cuba and the Dominican Republic are among the first countries poised to challenge proposed alcohol labelling legislation.
The US, Cuba and the Dominican Republic have all tabled complaints about the plan at today’s World Trade Organisation committee meeting.
Ireland is attending the meeting alongside 163 other countries – and the controversial plan to put cancer warnings on all alcohol labels will be high on the agenda.
The Irish Times Europe Correspondent Naomi O’Leary told The Pat Kenny Show Ireland is already getting criticism from several different countries.
“They’re getting a lot of pushbacks from countries that have large alcohol industries because they're concerned about the precedent this could set,” she said.
The Department of Health announced plans to introduce labels on alcohol bottles by 2026 that warn of the risk of liver disease and fatal cancers from alcohol consumption.
The labels will direct the consumer to the HSE website Ask About Alcohol for further information.
Ms O'Leary said the same process happened when warning labels were introduced on cigarette boxes – making alcohol industries worry.
“There are concerns where alcohol is an important industry about it having that same association with cancer," she said.
The Mediterranean diet
The World Health Organisation has backed Ireland’s plan to introduce these labels by 2026, insisting that any amount of alcohol is bad.
Ireland and the WHO have also dismissed the idea that one glass of wine a day is healthy – which Naomi says this dismissal has caused the “cultural reaction”.
“The issues of food and drink are so dear to different European countries, especially places like Italy who have their own industry and an idea of their cultural history tied up with the Mediterranean diet,” she said.
“It's very sensitive, and there was real anger there that the EU Commission didn’t block it.”
Ms O’Leary said several European countries will attempt to prove to the EU Commission that alcohol labelling is not justified.
Countries that rely on alcohol trade have said the new law would be an obstacle to the free circulation of goods in the EU single market.
“The Commission wants to have standard labels across the EU but that’s not going to happen when you have this level of division among member states,” she said.
“Ireland is turning out to be a test case.”
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