Manufacturers, marketers of alcoholic energy drinks put on notice

Posted by Editorial on 20th May 2008

The manufacturers and marketers of alcoholic energy drinks have been warned by Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) that their product claims will be scrutinised more carefully.

Minister for Consumer Affairs, Tony Robinson, issued a public warning about alcoholic energy drinks, cautioning that these products may pose particular risks to consumers’ health and wellbeing.

Alcoholic energy drinks are packaged ready-to-drink products combining alcohol with a stimulant such as caffeine or guarana. They are often marketed as enhancing alertness and reducing fatigue. However, manufacturers give substantially less prominence to the risks associated with combining alcohol with stimulants, according to CAV.

“Consumers need to know that these drinks may be harmful to their health and wellbeing. The Brumby Government believes that the marketing of alcoholic energy drinks can fail to make consumers’ aware of some very real risks and adverse effects,” Mr Robinson said.

In particular, it is suggested that the emphasis on the energy-giving qualities of the alcoholic energy drinks may mislead consumers about the intoxicating effects of the drinks.

“Young people are in particular danger of alcohol-related harm from alcoholic energy drinks, given their lack of experience, their tendency to engage in risky behaviours and the effects of alcohol on the developing brain,” Mr Robinson said. “I have issued this public warning to increase awareness of the potential health risks of alcoholic energy drinks, so consumers can make a better, more informed choice about consuming these products.”

The Fair Trading Act 1999 empowers the Minister to issue public warnings on the basis that products may adversely affect the interest of persons who have acquired them.

In addition to this public warning, Mr Robinson has formally asked CAV to further investigate possible misleading or deceptive conduct in alcoholic energy drink marketing. “Manufacturers, distributors and marketers of alcoholic energy drinks should consider themselves on notice and that their marketing practices will be closely scrutinised, to ensure compliance with Victorian consumer protection law,” Mr Robinson said.

Mr Robinson also commended licensees who are removing cocktails and mixed drinks containing energy drinks from sale in their venues and manufacturers who are no longer distributing alcoholic energy drinks.

The warning comes following increased government action to curb binge-drinking and, with increased concern about binge-drinking prevalence in Australia, particularly in the media, alcoholic beverage manufacturers may need to brace themselves for further crackdowns and greater scrutiny in the future.