The Minister for Health James Reilly stated recently, “Providing advice to pregnant women on the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy and providing other health information to the consumer at the point of consumption are an important means of informing the consumer about the dangers associated with the alcohol product being consumed”.
However work on the legislative proposals is on hold at present to await the recommendations of the National Substance Misuse Strategy (NSMS) Steering Group. The scope of this Bill may have to be expanded as a result of the recommendations made by the NSMS Steering Group which is due to report later this year.
Meanwhile the Acting Director of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), Kathryn D’Arcy has welcomed the Minister for Health’s announcement.
She said that the drinks industry had agreed this measure with the previous Government almost four years ago in order to provide consumers with the necessary information to make informed decisions about their consumption, thus promoting a more responsible attitude towards alcohol.
She commented, “With research frequently showing a general ignorance amongst the Irish public about the amount of alcohol contained in a standard unit, in 2007 ABFI agreed with the Department of Health measures to introduce labels that would provide specific information about the number of alcohol units contained in any pre-packaged product.
“This unit information would allow consumers benchmark their consumption against the Government’s recommended weekly limits of 21 units for men and 14 for women. These labels were to be introduced as soon as possible, accompanied by an awareness campaign.
“While the previous Government did not advance the legislation, it is welcome that Minister James Reilly has said that he will proceed with it.
“Overall alcohol consumption has been declining in Ireland for a decade and this decline has accelerated in recent years. In fact between 2001 and 2008 per capita consumption declined from 11.33 litres to 9.92 litres. In 2009 alcohol consumption fell a further 9.6 per cent and the Irish drinks market is now back to mid-1990s levels. This means that per capita consumption now stands at precisely the target set by the Government’s Strategic Task Force on Alcohol in 2004.
“Nevertheless, the drinks industry believes in providing consumers with information about their levels of alcohol consumption and will continue to support targeted measures such as the introduction of these labels to allow Irish adults make informed decisions.”