Drinks industry to be “global pariah” claim

The drinks industry has warned that jobs, innovation and investment will be severely impacted with immediate effect if cancer labels remain in the Alcohol Bill as the Minister for Health Simon Harris intends. It’s also believed that the government is putting its own legislation at risk and is throwing up huge uncertainty by folding to pressure from the anti-alcohol lobby.

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland added that Ireland’s food and drinks industry will become a “global pariah” as the Government looks set to introduce hugely damaging and misleading cancer warning labels on all alcohol products sold in Ireland including craft beer, artisan gin and quality whiskey as well as demanding such warnings be carried in pubs, off-licences and restaurants.

ABFI was responding to reports that the Government would not remove the draconian proposal to add cancer warnings to alcohol products from the Alcohol Bill.

Indeed ABFI has insisted that the anti-small business and anti-trade measure will impact the reputation of Ireland’s quality drinks brands and warned that this move will hit jobs, innovation and investment with immediate effect.

It believes that measures in the Alcohol Bill should be proportionate and evidence-based and that the idea of picking and choosing one disease over the other health risks and/or benefits associated with alcohol consumption is confusing and nonsensical.

“We all agree that alcohol misuse and underage drinking should be addressed and we support the objective of the Alcohol Bill in this regard,” stated ABFI Director Patricia Callan, “But it’s imperative that the end result is a piece of legislation that is effective, evidence-based, compliant with EU law and does not do undue harm to an important Irish industry.

“As an industry we support giving consumers factual information to help them make an informed choice about their health. But this is exactly why a sweeping and heavy-handed ‘alcohol causes cancer’ statement makes little sense. Many studies on alcohol consumption show a J-shaped relationship between alcohol and health whereby a low level of consumption can result in certain health benefits whereas a high level of consumption is associated with increased health risks. The relationship between alcohol and health is complex and it’s important that people are properly educated and informed about this.

“Focusing on one health issue alone (cancer) does not give a full or accurate picture to help consumers make an informed choice about their drinking,” she continued, referencing the recent World Health Organisation report showing that most alcohol-related deaths worldwide in 2016 were as a result of injuries.

“This was followed by digestive diseases, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, infectious diseases, followed by cancers,” she said, “Warning labels should be proportionate to the risks faced by consumers, but cancer labels would not give consumers a proportionate view of the impact of alcohol consumption.

“The legislation already provides for a general health warning that will specifically warn against excessive consumption of alcohol. No other country in the world requires mandatory cancer warning labels and imposing such a label will cause substantial reputational damage to our quality brands by applying a stigma to products produced in Ireland.

“This will impact jobs, investment and innovation, creating a barrier to trade both into and out of Ireland.

She also warned that while the European Commission did not issue a negative opinion on the cancer labelling provision when notified, the inclusion of cancer warnings is likely to make it more difficult to get the provisions on labelling and advertising cleared by the EU assessment process.

“It’s concerning that the Government is putting its own legislation at risk and is throwing up huge uncertainty by folding to pressure from the anti-alcohol lobby,” she concluded.


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