Alcohol product labelling

Six months after the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (FoFR) made its recommendations on pregnancy warning labels,
Commonwealth Government representatives are still unable to provide any firm details about the introduction of the 2013 mandatory scheme.

On 9 December 2011, FoFR, the group of Australian and New Zealand Government Ministers responsible for the regulation of food and
beverages, met to consider the recommendations of Labelling Logic, the final report from the review of food labelling in Australia.

Both in its Communique and in its detailed response to Labelling Logic, FoFR recommended that the alcohol industry would be given two
years to voluntarily implement alcohol pregnancy warning labels, after which time the government would regulate.

There is concern that FoFR will go back on the decision made at their December meeting to mandate pregnancy warning labels in two years. This is evidenced by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing, Jane Halton stating at Budget Estimates
on 31 May 2012 that “…if the industry is prepared to adopt warning labels in a voluntary sense, there would not necessarily be the need for them
to consider regulation”.

Michael Thorn, FARE, Chief Executive says the Government’s inaction and confused messaging over the past six months is extremely disappointing.

“If the Government is at all serious about the commitment made last December, then it must immediately signal its intention to establish
an open process to formally develop and introduce a mandatory alcohol warning label regime that is evidence-based and determined through meaningful consultation,” Mr Thorn said.

The Commonwealth Government doesn’t need to look very far for such a model. It is currently leading a collaborative process with key
industry, public health and consumer stakeholders to develop an agreed interpretive ‘front of pack’ food labelling system by the end of the year.

Mr Thorn says that the alcohol industry’s voluntary approach to alcohol warnings is far from appropriate, with small and inconspicuous labels that contain weak and ambiguous messages.

“Government shouldn’t be standing idly by waiting to see if voluntary measures will work when all the evidence already shows that they don’t. The alcohol industry drags its feet simply because it can, but there can be no such excuse for the Government which has so far failed to deliver on its promise take action on such a critical national public health initiative,” Mr Thorn said.

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Labelling market research

Market research released by FARE has overwhelmingly rejected the alcohol health warning labels recently launched by the Australian alcohol industry in favour of informative, clear and specific labels produced by FARE.

Across all categories, the alcohol industry’s labels were dismissed in preference for the FARE labels:

  • 95% selected the FARE health warning labels as being more noticeable.
  • 89% believed the FARE health warning labels are more likely to raise awareness of alcohol‐related harms.
  • 88% felt the FARE health warning labels would be more likely to prompt conversations about alcoholrelated harms.
  • 88% believed the FARE warning labels would be more likely to result in people drinking less alcohol.
  • 60% selected the FARE labels as telling them something they did not already know while only 10% selected the DrinkWise labels.
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