Italy’s government and wine producers’ associations have blasted a plan by Ireland to add labels to wines warning consumers about the health risks linked to alcohol, which can now go ahead after the European Commission failed to oppose it.
After submitting the plans in June 2022, Dublin received no objection from the commission during a six-month moratorium despite protests from Italy, Spain and six other EU countries.
Ireland plans to add labelling to wine carrying warnings of links between alcohol consumption and cancer, similar to those seen on cigarette packets, as well as on the risks of drinking alcohol while pregnant.
Italy’s foreign minister Antonio Tajani said the decision to slap health warnings on Italian wines was “absurd” and “does not take into account the difference between moderate consumption and alcohol abuse”.
Assurda la decisione dell'Irlanda di introdurre un'etichetta per tutte le bevande alcoliche, incluso il vino italiano. Nonostante la contrarietà del PE. Scelta che ignora la differenza tra consumo moderato e l'abuso di alcol. Chiederò l'intervento della Commissione Ue sul @wto.
— Antonio Tajani (@Antonio_Tajani) January 12, 2023
Agriculture ministry undersecretary Luigi D’Eramo defended Italian wine as “history, culture… wine is part of the Mediterranean diet.”
“It’s about quality and responsible consumption,” he argued. “The health warning plan is a dangerous precedent which, if followed by other countries, risks damaging a leading part of our food and agriculture sector.”
The plan was slammed as a “direct attack on Italy” by Coldiretti, Italy’s main agricultural lobby, which said Italy “is the world’s leading producer and exporter with more than €14 billion in turnover, with over half coming from abroad”.
Italian wine producers’ groups also responded angrily to the plan, with Federvini president Micaela Pallini describing it as “discriminatory and disproportionate”.
Once the law is officially implemented by the Irish government, the alcohol industry will have three years to bring in the labelling.
The World Health Organization warns that “no level” of alcohol consumption is safe and that “any beverage containing alcohol, regardless of its price and quality, poses a risk of developing cancer”.