Health groups bamboozled by government inaction on alcohol warning labels

Wednesday 30 November, 2011

Government accepts industry rather than expert recommendations

A coalition of health agencies described today's response by the Federal Government to the national Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy as a lost opportunity to address the significant health and social cost of alcohol in Australia.

The Alcohol Policy Coalition, an alliance of health groups, is disappointed and baffled by the Government's decision to reject expert recommendations to include broad-ranging health warnings on alcoholic beverages, supported by social marketing campaigns.

While the Government has indicated support for warning labels for pregnant women, Alcohol Policy Coalition (APC) member, Todd Harper, CEO of Cancer Council Victoria, said labels aimed only at pregnant women were targeting a minority of drinkers.

Mr Harper said he was surprised the Government continued to think the alcohol industry was best placed to deliver health messages about alcohol. "It's 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 APC urges all attendees at the Food Standards Ministerial Council meeting on December 9 to seriously consider all of the recommendations made in the Government's own Labelling Logic review, instead of resting on ‘stop gap measures'.

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 per cent of the package surface; and
  • rotate with alternating specific, outcome-related health messages.

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

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