By Andrew Starke

Health experts have urged the Federal Government to make new alcohol health warning labels mandatory and suggested that there be at least five health warning messages on regular display.

The labels, unveiled yesterday (Aug 16) by the Alcohol Education & Rehabilitation Foundation (AER Foundation), include messages that drinking any alcohol can harm unborn babies, damage young developing brains and increase the risk of cancer.

The call follows alcohol industry representative DrinkWise introducing consumer health warnings for alcohol products in July, which the AER Foundation called ‘the release of the alcohol industry’s vaguely-worded, voluntary consumer information labels’.

The AER Foundation said it had consulted with leading Australian health experts to create the proposed health warning labels.

Other messages warn against drinking and driving, and the risk of injury.

AER Foundation CEO Michael Thorn said the labels reflected existing international and Australian evidence that the most effective labels are specific, unambiguous and include a range of rotating messages.

“Consumers should be armed with clear information on the harms that result from alcohol misuse,” he said.

”International research on health warning labels tells us that they are effective in both raising awareness of health risks and changing people’s health behavior.

”We need warnings as part of a comprehensive approach – but proper warnings, not feeble warnings that suit the drinks industry’s interests.”

Thorn’s view is that the labels need to be mandatory, government regulated and developed independently of the alcohol industry.

“Health warning labels need to be implemented and administered by the government, not the alcohol industry,” he said.

”All of the evidence says that alcohol industry regulation does not work.

“The country’s biggest alcohol companies will soon be using their weak, voluntary labels to direct consumers to ‘Get the Facts’ on an industry-funded website.

”But Australians need to get the facts now – at the point of purchase or consumption.”

Thorn added there was also widespread support for the listing of nutritional information and ingredients on alcohol products.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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