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Australian drinks to carry health warnings

Australian wine brands such as Leasingham, Hardys, Jacob's Creek and Banrock station will soon carry health warnings.

Australian drinks industry-funded watchdog DrinkWise has issued a series of labels carrying the message – ‘Get the Facts’ – and encouraging consumers to find out more via its website drinkwise.org.au.

Other labels will warn, ‘Kids and alcohol don’t mix’, ‘Is Your Drinking Harming Yourself or Others?’ and ‘It is Safest Not to Drink While Pregnant’.

The labels will not be compulsory but DrinkWise has published a list of its member companies which have signed up to the initiative.

DrinkWise represents 80% of Australia’s drinks brands, with multinationals including Diageo Australia, Lion, Premium Wine Brands and Suntory, owners of major brands such as Bacardi, Absolut, Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels, Strongbow, Cooper’s beers as well as leading wine brands.

Dr Trish Worth, chair of the DrinkWise Australia board said research had found high levels of support in the community for consumer information messages on alcoholic drinks.

‘Two thirds (61%) of consumers surveyed said they would support the idea of information messages on alcohol labels and one third (32%) said they would be likely to seek more information about responsible drinking as a result of seeing a label.’

Many health experts see the move as a step in the right direction. ‘Australia has one of the highest rates of alcohol abuse in the world,’ Michael Farrell at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre said.

Farrell added that he believes that it is very important that the health risks of alcohol consumption are better communicated across the country, and that the general public should understand that alcohol shouldn’t be treated as an ordinary everyday consumer item.

The Australian Medical Association, however, said the warnings are too soft and do not carry any of the specific health information that makes a difference to how people view the importance of alcohol and their health.

AMA president Dr Steve Hambleton said, ‘The alcohol industry must make a full and genuine commitment to reducing alcohol-related harms to teenagers and young people by ceasing the targeted marketing of alcohol to teenagers and sponsorship of sporting and youth cultural events.’

In New Zealand, brewer Lion Nathan will be issuing warnings similar to DrinkWise Australia by early September.

Written by Keziah Reed

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