Consumer Information and Labelling of Alcohol – Position Statement

Key Messages:

n 1988 alcohol was classified by the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer as a Group One carcinogen. This is the highest classification available and means that it is a cause of cancer. Accordingly, access to information on how to use alcohol is crucial for the consumer and should accompany the sale and supply of all alcohol products as a public health promotion message and disease prevention measure.

In this statement, alcohol labelling includes:

  • Factual information such as a list of ingredients (health information labelling); and
  • Directional information, including advice and recommendations about drinking (warning labelling).

The introduction of health information and warning labels on alcohol products has the potential to increase the awareness of alcohol as a potentially harmful product and should be an important component of a comprehensive public health strategy to educate the community on safer alcohol consumption. Placing health information and warning labels on alcoholic drinks and containers targets the appropriate audience (the drinker) at the appropriate time, when purchasing and using the product.

Cancer Council recommends:

  • Health information and warning labels should be mandatory under the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code.
  • Health information and warning labels need to follow strict guidelines about wording, format, legibility, colours used and the size of the label and position on the bottle.
  • The introduction of health information and warning labels should be part of a wider alcohol control strategy that includes advertising and sponsorship bans and targeted pricing and taxation measures.
  • An implementation time frame for the industry to include health information and warning labels should occur within 12 months of the decision to include such labels.
  • Warning labels should be compulsory on all alcohol products so consumers can be informed that the product they are purchasing and/or consuming can have a serious impact on their health and well-being. They should also include health messages based on the 2009 NHMRC guidelines for low risk drinking.
  • To maximise impact, awareness and comprehension of the warning labels; they need to be: on the main label (as opposed to the neck label); boxed; in text larger than 3 mm high; textual and graphic; attention-getting; full colour or black writing on white background to ensure written messages stand out; occupying a considerable portion of the package surface, with the minimum size of labels stipulated; rotated with different messages; and easy to comprehend – they need to be tested with consumers to ensure they are understood especially by people with low literacy or who speak languages other than English.
  • Warning labels should address social as well as health and safety issues, such as risk to third parties, as well as to the drinker themselves.
  • Warning labels should be reinforced by warning posters and signs in licensed premises.

See the full position statement:
Consumer Information and Labelling of Alcohol