Portugal is one of nine European Union wine-producing countries challenging the European Commission’s decision to authorize Ireland to label all alcoholic drinks with warnings similar to those on tobacco packets about the health risks of consumption. alcohol, specifically liver disease and cancers.
“Portugal has already taken a public position, being against what Ireland is proposing. It doesn’t make sense to do this level of speculation through labeling,” said Agriculture Minister Maria do Céu Antunes, who on Monday informally discussed the issue with her counterparts from Italy, France, Spain and Greece , on the sidelines of the meeting of the Council of Agriculture of the European Union in Brussels.
The Irish measure is part of a series of obligations set out in public health legislation to reduce alcohol consumption in the country, passed in 2018, which also set minimum retail prices for all types of alcoholic beverages.
The Dublin government had to get the go-ahead from Brussels to introduce health warnings, as the change to labeling provisions has implications for trade and the free movement of products in the single market.
With this authorization, Ireland’s health minister, Stephen Donnelly, can now publish the measure’s regulation, which has a three-year deadline: from 2026, all alcohol labels will have to carry warnings, in red letters, that ” drinking alcohol causes liver disease’ or that ‘there is a direct link between alcohol and deadly cancers’.
The Commission is also working on a similar proposal as part of its plan to fight cancer, which is due to be formalized by the end of this year. The issue is controversial: in early 2022, the European Parliament spoke out against cancer risk messages on alcohol labels.
According to Maria do Céu Antunes, the Member States opposing this change “are preparing a document to send to the Commission” with their arguments and “all the necessary information” to clarify the Community executive “of the consequences of this proposal ».
“We are working together to cope [a Comissão] and to defend what is best for our farmers”, guaranteed the minister, recalling that the wine sector is “a very important chapter for the Portuguese economy”, representing almost a billion euros in exports and “having a very positive impact from a social and environmental point of view: it settles people and creates wealth in each of the regions.”
“[Além disso,] We know very well that wine consumed in moderation is part of the Mediterranean diet,” added Maria do Céu Antunes. And he emphasized: “What we really need are awareness campaigns.”