• Kirin-owned brewer to print warnings
  • Winemakers upset at nutrition labelling call
  • Review urges traffic light labelling on food and drink
Australian beer may have to carry health warnings

Australian beer may have to carry health warnings

Australia's second largest brewer, Kirin Holdings-owned Lion Nathan, has backed calls for alcoholic drinks labels to carry health warnings in the country, following the publication of a Government review.

Lion Nathan said late last week that it will print a responsible drinking message on its beer labels in Australia and New Zealand. The XXXX and Toohey's brewer will also print a message to warn pregnant women about the risks of drinking alcohol.

Its moves support two key recommendations on labelling published in the Blewett Review, an independent report commissioned by the Australian and New Zealand Governments and published last week. Lion Nathan's position as Australia's second biggest brewer (behind Foster's Group's Carlton United Breweries), with a 43% volume share of beer sales, will put pressure on other drinks companies to follow suit.

The review, conducted by former Australian health minister Dr Neil Blewett, also calls for point-of-sale health warnings in bars. But, it says that labelling rules should be backed up by "a comprehensive, multi-faceted national campaign targeting the public health problems of alcohol in society".

The Winemakers' Federation of Australia (WFA) expressed concern about the review's recommendations for more nutritional information to be included on alcoholic drinks labels. In particular, Blewett's call for mandatory energy content on drinks labels would, if adopted by Government, cost the wine industry AUD9m (US$9m) per year, the WFA said.

“I think we need a little common sense here," said the WFA's CEO, Stephen Strachan. "It is already mandatory to include the volume, alcohol content, standard drink equivalent and any allergens included in the wine, and many wineries voluntarily include pregnancy and drink-in-moderation warnings.

"I have never heard of a visitor to a cellar door asking what a wine’s salt content is or how many carbs it contains,” he said.

The Blewett Review contains 61 recommendations on labelling for food and drink in Australia and New Zealand. Alongside warnings on alcohol, it also calls for a traffic light labelling scheme across all food and drink products, in order to highlight high sugar, fat and salt content on the front of packs.

In addition, the review calls for added sugar, fat and vegetable oil to be clearly labelled in the ingredients panel.

For the full review, click here.