Round-Up - The ICAP Digest - January 2014

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Once a month, the International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP), which covers alcohol policies worldwide, looks at what's going on in-market to promote a responsible role for alcohol in society.


Graphic. In Brazil, Goiânia’s municipal authorities have reportedly enacted a bylaw requiring all alcohol manufactured or produced in the city to bear graphic drink driving warning labels. The labels are required to bear the message "If you drink, do not drive," a statement about drink driving fatalities and injuries, and a photograph of an alcohol-related road traffic crash.

Mexican Congresswoman Rocío Corona Nakamura has recently proposed a nation-wide labeling requirement. Nakamura said that the presence of graphic warning labels on non-distilled alcohol beverages, including beer, would reduce harmful consumption and also deter drink driving. The Institutional Revolutionary Party member continued that labels warning against alcohol-related harms could reduce harmful drinking among youth, and noted that 70% of Mexico’s road traffic crashes are alcohol-related.

Denied. Workers at UK supermarket retailer Tesco have been refusing to sell alcohol beverages to parents accompanied by their children in efforts to avoid proxy sales of alcohol to underage youth. A Tesco spokesperson said that workers had been trained to request proof of age identification for anyone present during an alcohol purchase, and that “we would rather the staff err on the side of caution than risk selling to someone who is buying alcohol for people who are under age”.

In response to similar claims of alcohol sales refusal throughout the Netherlands, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has announced that there is no prohibition on the sale of alcohol by supermarket staff to parents accompanied by their children. The Dutch media recently reported several instances of supermarkets refusing to sell alcohol to parents since legislation increasing the minimum legal age to 18 years old for alcohol purchases and consumption went into effect in 2014.

Strips. Oslo University Hospital doctors have developed a new method of detecting methanol poisoning using similar technology to that used in testing blood sugar levels. The test strips indicate if a patient’s blood has a certain level of formic acid present by changing the paper’s colour after applying a drop of blood. Doctors developed the test strips to help detect methanol poisoning sooner in a patient without having to send blood to a laboratory.

The new test could help make diagnosis and treatment of methanol poisoning faster in countries without easily accessible laboratories, particularly those where counterfeiting and illicit production of alcohol occurs. Counterfeit and illicit mass-produced beverages may pose health risks due to low-quality ingredients, and some studies have found that such beverages are more likely than legal products to contain chemical components associated with acute toxic effects.

Public. The São Paulo City Council is considering legislation that would ban the consumption of alcohol in public parks to address increasing incidents of underage drinking leading to hospitalisations. The Metropolitan Civil Guard and park officials have also worked with the Prosecutor’s Office of Defense to create campaigns to raise awareness among underage youth about the risks of harmful drinking.

The Public Ministry and the Naval Prefecture will enforce various alcohol controls on Paraguay’s waterways during the summer months of 2014. The consumption of alcohol will be prohibited on Paraguay’s public beaches during this period, and the “Operation Summer” campaign is intended to reduce alcohol-related drownings, which have reportedly increased in recent years.

Geographic. The European Parliament has approved more stringent labeling requirements for aromatised wine products marketed as sangria. The legislation requires sangria produced outside of Spain and Portugal to be labelled accordingly, with its geographic origin explicitly listed. The measure will also introduce similar protections for products marketed as Vermouth and Gluehwein.

The UK Government has begun implementing its Spirit Drinks Verification Scheme, which will require companies involved in the production and preparation of Scotch whisky for the EU market to apply for verification by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The process will eventually be extended to other UK-produced distilled spirits with a protected geographic indication as well.

Stations. In the French department of Réunion, officials are considering legislation that would prohibit night-time sales of alcohol and all sales of chilled alcohol beverages from highway service stations as part of efforts to reduce alcohol-related harms. Under the proposal, service stations could sell alcohol beverages from 0800 until 1800, as long as they are unrefrigerated. 

Also, the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated a 1938 Kentucky ban barring the state’s grocery stores, highway service stations, and certain other retailers from selling wine and distilled spirit products. Overturning a 2011 district court decision, Judge Deborah L. Cook wrote that the state “indisputably maintains a legitimate interest” in reducing access to wine and spirit drinks, particularly among minors and abstinent citizens “morally or practically objecting to alcohol exposure”.

Awareness. In collaboration with the Department of Land Transport, the Thai Foundation for Responsible Drinking (TFRD) is launching a new alcohol awareness programme, “Alcohol We Know”, for the Reserve Officer Training Corps Students (ROTCS). The programme has approximately 7,000 student participants from Chiang Mai and Lamphun, and focuses on raising awareness about the risks of alcohol-related harms and instructs participants on driving safely.

New research suggests that alcohol interventions can reduce consumption and alcohol-related problems among first-year college students. The researchers conducted a meta-analytical review of 41 randomised controlled trials covering 62 interventions involving over 24,000 college freshmen. They found that behavioural interventions with several components, such as personalised feedback, moderation strategies, goal-setting, and identification of risky situations, were most effective in reducing both consumption and alcohol-related problems.

Testing. Workers in the Paldiski, Estonia 'North Port' are reportedly not permitted to work without submitting to testing for alcohol consumption, according to employees. While administrative staff are not required to undergo testing, manual workers in the port have been required to since 2008. Workers’ complaints that their civil rights are being violated by the requirement have been dismissed on the grounds that Estonian workers' legal rights do not apply in the privately-owned area.

The Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau has recently issued a new set of requirements for police officers, requiring them to submit to daily alcohol breath testing. The requirements also ban alcohol consumption for all police staff without written approval, but does not extend to staff drinking in their homes. Officials said the move will help present a good image of the force and reduce “improper actions.”

And finally,

Whale. Health inspectors in Iceland have reportedly banned a controversial product marketed as “whale beer” after determining that it failed to meet food safety standards. The beer represented a collaboration between a brewer and a whaling company to commemorate the Icelandic mid-winter festival. The beer contained flour derived from the compressed meat and bones of whales, which officials concluded was illegal because the whaling company was not permitted to produce flour for food production.

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