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Anger in Italy over Ireland’s alcohol health warning plans

Ireland’s plan to introduce health warnings on bottles of wine, beer and spirits has provoked outrage in the Italian wine industry.

Dublin informed the European Commission of the plan in June last year. After the six-month deadline elapsed without objection from the commission, Ireland could begin the taking steps towards instating the warnings.

The mandatory labels will warn consumers about how overconsumption of alcohol could lead to cancer and liver diseases. There will also be information about the risks of drinking while pregnant. Messages of this kind are permitted under Ireland’s draft Public Health Regulations 2022.

Despite the commission’s compliance, Italy, Spain and six other EU member states protested the idea. As a key exporter of wine, Italy took the proposal as a “direct attack”, according to Coldiretti, the country’s biggest farmers’ association.

Members of the Italian wine industry expressed fears that the measures would deter Irish consumers from purchasing their products. If exports diminish, the sector will suffer, with over half of its €14 billion of annual revenues coming from abroad.

Coldiretti said the labels wrongly suggest that consumption of spirits is equally dangerous to the consumption of wine and present the same health risks.

“It is completely improper to equate the excessive consumption of spirits, typical of the Nordic countries, to the moderate and conscious consumption of quality products with lower alcohol content, such as beer and wine,” said the association.

Antonio Capaldo, CEO of Feudi di San Gregorio said, “along with many other producers in Italy, I share Coldiretti’s concerns. However, I do not believe it is not a “direct attack” against Italy or any other wine producing country. Even more, I don’t believe such an aggressive position will help in any way to highlight the substantial difference between wine and other alcoholic beverages when it comes to consumption culture and therefore risk for health.”
Such a difference may be obvious to us, here in Italy, but we have to understand that this is not the same in countries with a different wine/beverages culture; and we have to accept this, and continue working on the culture, history and tradition of the incredible piece of civilisation that wine is, in particular when associated with the restaurant business, another incredible piece of human creativity.”
“Ireland’s position is not a ban, is a warning – a warning for consumers who may not fully understand the risk of alcohol. It is surprising though that a similar warning does not apply, for instance, in the same Ireland regulation, on high-fat food with possible heart consequences, but as I said, our path remains unchanged: talk about wine, its origin and its culture.”

The alcohol industry will have three years to impose the labels on product packaging, once the decision is officially implemented by the Irish government.

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