Drink Tank

Still no message on the bottle

Not even close!

This is what I thought when I saw the results of the most recent audit of the industry’s efforts to introduce warning messages on their products.

For the second year, Ipsos Social Research Institute carried out an independent audit of the alcohol ‘warning labels’ (I hesitate to call them this) that are being voluntarily applied to alcohol products.

The Audit found that 37 per cent of alcohol products carried a DrinkWise consumer information message, for example ‘Is your drinking harming yourself or others’ and ‘Get the facts’.

A vast majority (86 per cent) of these labels took up less than 5 per cent of the alcohol label or face of the packaging, and 92 per cent of them are on the back, side or bottom of the product.

Before I go any further, let me go back and give you a quick rundown of the situation with alcohol health warning labels in Australia to date.

In October 2009 the Federal Government announced a review of food labelling in Australia.

In January 2011 the final report from the review was handed down. It included recommendations that generic alcohol warning labels and pregnancy warning labels be applied to all alcohol products.

In December 2011 Commonwealth, State and Territory ministers responsible for food decided that alcohol pregnancy warning labels should be regulated after a period of two years where industry was allowed to voluntarily introduce alcohol pregnancy warnings.

While all of this was going on – in July 2011 the alcohol industry’s social aspects organisation DrinkWise introduced a consumer information label regime. The then Chair of DrinkWise, the Hon Trish Worth, stated that ‘DrinkWise will continue to work with industry to ensure that health labels on alcohol, currently being used voluntarily, will be on all alcohol products within two years’.

Not even close!

We are now three months away from the two year mark that the industry was given to introduce pregnancy warning labels.

Almost two years has passed since DrinkWise introduced their alcohol labelling regime, and this audit has again shown that the alcohol industry is not committed to introducing alcohol warning labels. Industry designed weak labels in the first place, made worse by applying the the smallest possible size, and now two years on have failed to meet their own self-imposed target to place them on all alcohol products.

Surely this unequivocally shows that a voluntary warning label regime will not work and that it is time for government to regulate.


Caterina Giorgi

Caterina is the Chief Executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education.


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