A plan by Ireland to put stark health warnings on bottles of wine, beer and spirits has caused anger in Italy.
Ireland is free to go ahead with the measure, which would warn consumers about the risks of cancer and liver diseases linked to alcohol, after a deadline passed for the European Commission to oppose it.
Dublin informed the commission of its intention in June last year and did not receive an objection from the body during a six-month moratorium period despite protests from Italy, Spain and six other EU member states.
The labelling would also contain information on the risks of drinking alcohol while pregnant.
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Coldiretti, Italy’s biggest farmers’ association, described the “terrifying” warnings as a “direct attack” against the country. Coldiretti noted that Italy was a key exporter of wine, with more than half of the industry’s €14bn of annual revenues coming from abroad.
“The green light from the European Union for alarmist wine labels in Ireland represents a dangerous precedent as it risks opening the door to other legislation capable of negatively influencing consumer choices,” the association said in a statement. “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.”
Ettore Prandini, the president of Coldiretti, said that while it was correct for the EU to protect the health of citizens, this “cannot be translated into simplistic decisions that risk unjustly criminalising individual products regardless of the quantities consumed”.
Once officially implemented by the Irish Government, the alcohol industry will have three years in which to implement the labelling on its product packaging. The measure is allowed under Ireland’s draft Public Health Regulations 2022.
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Luigi D’Eramo, an undersecretary at Italy’s agriculture, food sovereignty and forestry ministry, argued that wine and beer should not be compared to spirits and smoking. “You don’t protect public health by criminalising individual products,” he said.
“Wine is history, culture ... an expression of our territories and is part of the Mediterranean diet. It is about quality and responsible consumption. The health-warning plan is a dangerous precedent which, if followed by other countries, risks damaging a leading sector of our food and agriculture system.”
Giovanni Busi, president of the Chianti wine consortium, said that although Ireland was not a large importer of wine, if a similar measure were adopted by other countries then it would do “inestimable” damage to the image of Italian wine. – Guardian