Long wait but no bundle of joy

Friday 9 December, 2011

New alcohol labels targeting pregnant women address a minority of drinkers

Today's decision by the Ministerial Council to implement just one of the alcohol-related recommendations in the Labelling Logic report is a lost opportunity to address the significant health and social cost of alcohol in Australia, according to a coalition of health agencies.

Sondra Davoren, legal policy advisor for the Alcohol Policy Coalition, said it was disappointing there was no mention of recommendations to include broad-ranging health warnings on alcoholic beverages in the communiqué released by the Ministerial Council this afternoon.

"While this is a positive first step, pregnancy labels target only a small minority of drinkers. The fact is, the health impacts of alcohol are far-reaching and unknown to many consumers," said Ms Davoren.

Ms Davoren said the alcohol industry was hardly best placed to deliver health messages about alcohol and it was extraordinary that government seemed to be following their guidance rather than an independent panel of experts.

Ms Davoren cited VicHealth research that shows strong community support for better information on alcohol - 89% want advice that exceeding daily guidelines may be harmful, while 86% want a list of ingredients.

She said it was time to end the lacklustre regulation of alcohol labelling and deliver health labels that address the wide range of alcohol related harms.

"Labels must be mandatory, government regulated and developed independent of the alcohol industry. They must be supported by a government-funded public education campaign."

The Alcohol Policy Coalition recommends alcohol labels should:

  • include text and graphic warnings about the range of health and safety risks of alcohol consumption,
  • occupy at least 25% of the package surface; and
  • rotate with alternating specific, outcome-related health messages.

The Alcohol Policy Coalition (the Coalition) is a collaboration of health agencies - Australian Drug Foundation, Cancer Council Victoria, Heart Foundation Victoria, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre and VicHealth - with shared concern relating to the misuse of alcohol and its health/social impacts on the community.

Alcohol remains one of the major causes of preventable death and illness in Australia. As such, the Coalition advocates for evidence based policy to prevent and reduce the harms caused by alcohol to Australians. For more information visit www.alcoholpolicycoalition.org.au.