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Alcohol may get health labels in Australia

By Ankush Chibber , 25-Aug-2011

Consumer groups have urged the Australian government to make alcohol health warning labels on liquor beverages mandatory to help reduce the harm caused by alcohol.

The call was made by the Alcohol Education & Rehabilitation Foundation (AER) on August 16, after the release of what it claims are the alcohol industry’s vaguely-worded, voluntary consumer information labels on alcohol products.

These voluntary labels, which are a result of the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council review's recommendations into alcohol labelling, have been deemed unfit and incomplete by the AER.

New labelling regime

According to a policy paper released today, the foundation is proposing a new health warning label regime, which requires that there be at least five health warning labels, including one specifically relating to drinking during pregnancy.

In addition, health-warning labels should comprise both text and symbol and they labels need to be placed consistently on the front of the product and clearly distinguishable from the rest of the label, the paper said.

The labels should be implemented as part of a comprehensive public education regime, and they should be evaluated and refreshed at least every three years, the paper said.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has contributed to this labelling concept as well, and in a release dated August 16 urged the federal government to adopt the proposed regime.

Awareness

Geraldine Kurukchi, a spokesperson for the AMA, said that the proposed concept relates to the US, which has had a regime of alcohol health labelling for over 20 years.

“Studies on the effectiveness of alcohol health warning labels introduced in the US in 1989 show they have resulted in increased awareness of the health information used on the labels,” she said.

According to Kurukchi, studies showed that awareness was highest among high-risk groups such as young people and recall was highest regarding the risk of birth defects resulting from alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

“Studies showed that exposure to health warning labels on alcohol stimulated conversations about the risks of alcohol consumption and people exposed to the labels were also less likely to have driven under the influence of alcohol,” she said.

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