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Cancer warnings on alcohol: 'Ireland's food and drinks industry will become a global pariah,' says federation

Update - 1.07pm: The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) has said that Ireland's food and drinks industry will become "a global pariah" after the Government introduces cancer warning labels on all alcohol products sold in Ireland.

The ABFI said that "the anti-small business and anti-trade measure" would impact the reputation of Ireland’s quality drinks brands and claimed it will hit jobs.

They called for the measures in the Alcohol Bill to be proportionate and evidence-based and that the idea of picking and choosing one disease over the other health risks associated with alcohol consumption was "confusing and nonsensical".

Patricia Callan, Director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) said: “We all agree that alcohol misuse and underage drinking should be addressed, and we support the objective of the Alcohol Bill in this regard. But it is 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.

[quote]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. [/quote]

"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."

They are calling for two amendments to the bill, the removal of the cancer warnings and the exemption of distillery and brewery visitor centres from advertising restrictions.

John Quinn, Global Brand Ambassador of Offaly’s Tullamore Dew, said: “We are growing our business around the world and our distillery and visitor centre are very important elements of that drive.

"The new bill would not allow us to direct tourists to our visitor centre. The amendments would ensure that the tourists to Offaly will be directed to the home of the whiskey they enjoy in their home country.

"This tourist attraction is a very important contributor to the economy of the town and county of Offaly.”

[h2]Earlier: Minister to continue with cancer warnings on alcohol labels as planned[/h2]

Cancer warnings will be placed on alcohol products under new legislation.

There had been reports Minister Simon Harris was to drop the proposal from the Public Health Alcohol Bill.

However, the Minister will bring forward the cancer labels, though he noted it may make it more difficult for the legislation to be cleared under EU rules.

The Minister has said it is his intention to clearly highlight the link between alcohol and cancer.

Yesterday, it emerged at least 12 TDs — four from Fine Gael, four from Fianna Fáil, and four Independents — said they want to delete the planned cancer warning from the new bill.

The 12 TDs are Peter Burke, Tony McLoughlin, Pat Deering, and Peter Fitzpatrick of Fine Gael; Bobby Aylward, Kevin O’Keeffe, Eamon Scanlon, and Declan Breathnach of Fianna Fáil; and Independents Noel Grealish, Michael Fitzmaurice, Carol Nolan, and Michael Collins.

The bid to scrap the health warning has been backed by the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, with its director Patricia Callan saying the planned new law is wrong as “focusing on one health issue alone does not give a full or accurate picture”.

In plans due to be put back before the Oireachtas, Mr Harris is expected to say minimum unit pricing, the regulation of certain alcohol advertisements, the separation of alcohol products from other items in shops, and health warnings will still be included in proposed new laws.