Alcohol to have mandatory health warnings in Australia

October 12, 2018
By Alana House

State and federal government ministers have voted to make health warning stickers mandatory on alcohol.

All alcoholic beverages will be required to display clear warnings on their products stating that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption for pregnant women.

But the Public Health Association says the move doesn’t go far enough and is calling for the labels to also warn drinking can cause cancer.

“The next logical step for alcohol warning labels is for Australia to follow Ireland’s lead and introduce mandatory labels which warn of the risks associated between drinking alcohol and developing cancer,” its chief Terry Slevin told News Corp.

DrinkWise has developed consumer information messages for alcohol labels to assist Australian consumers to better understand the facts about alcohol consumption, however the initiative is currently voluntary and only 75-80% of alcohol features the labels.  

Surveys show almost half of all Australia women do consume alcohol while pregnant.

AMA president Tony Bartone called for “clear and precise, significant front-of-label warnings” to address the high incidence of drinking among pregnant women.

“Too many women are unaware of the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant or trying to conceive,” Dr Bartone said.

“At the moment under the voluntary code, those small labels that are currently present on some of the products – not all of the products – are still not getting the intended message across.

“We need to be very clear that the effects, things like neurodevelopmental abnormality associated with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder are significant … and also can have effects in the offspring of the children involved.”

No timeline has been set for the labelling change, but ministers want it to be done “expeditiously”.

Brewers Association of Australia CEO Brett Heffernan told News Corp his organisation fully supported the move and said his industry was already 100% compliant.

“While it is disappointing that mandating pregnancy labelling for all packaged alcohol products is necessary, today’s decision by Ministers is a no-brainer. We fully expected this outcome,” he said.

“We are perplexed as to why others in the industry failed to heed the writing on the wall since 2012. The three major brewers got the job done, across hundreds of product labels, in just two years.”

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