Furthermore with 1.2 million New Zealanders believing that it is OK to get drunk and with 350,000 of those assessed having engaged in binge drinking behaviour on their last drinking occasion, New Zealander’s clearly accept as normal, high per occasion consumption of alcohol (Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand, 2004). Furthermore although worldwide per capita alcohol consumption has remained stable over the last 5 years, overall, harmful drinking patterns, such as binge drinking seems to be on the rise amongst young adults (McAllister, 2003; Lancet, 2008). In New Zealand a study of 1480 University students revealed that the majority (around 60%) of drinkers consumed more than national safe drinking guidelines. Binge drinking is clearly a prominent issue in New Zealand society and there are strong arguments that the government should take initiative to reduce excessive drinking and the associated risks and costs identified above.
One initiative that has been taken in many jurisdictions throughout the world is the mandatory use of health warning labels and responsible drinking guidelines on alcoholic beverages. The remainder of this essay will consider the effectiveness of such warning labels and whether their adoption in New Zealand would be beneficial to encourage positive drinking behaviours. This essay will describe current alcohol labeling policy in New Zealand, review literature on the use and effectiveness of labeling in reducing excessive alcohol consumption and consequentially make recommendations for the future of alcohol labeling in New Zealand.
Firstly food labeling standards in both Australian and New Zealand are governed by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991. In New Zealand alcoholic beverage containing more than 1.15% alcohol must only include a statement of its alcohol content and a statement of the number of standard drinks in the package. Beyond this no health warnings or nutritional information are required.
The first issue that can therefore be identified is the failure to make the provision of calorie and nutritional information mandatory on packaging. According to the Centre for science in the public interest (2003) consumers generally have very little idea regarding the calorie or carbohydrate content of alcoholic beverages. There is however some evidence that providing such information may have both desirable and undesirable effects. Although Bui et al (2008) recognises that in some cases increased awareness of caloric content may lead to decreased consumption, findings also indicated that nutritional information actually may lead to more favourable evaluations of fat and carbohydrate content and thus increase likelihood of consumption high alcohol drinks.
Nevertheless, although there is no evidence that this will reduce alcohol consumption a study conducted in Australia (Thomson (2012)) indicated that 76% of participants supported the display of nutritional information on alcohol labels. Furthermore as noted by the Australian Professional Society on Alcohol and Drugs (2010) there seems to be no logical reason why a bottle of cola is required to display nutritional information whereas a bottle of bourbon and cola is not. There is therefore certainly a strong argument that