Healthy alcoholic drinks marketing controversy

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 8th April 2013

The wine industry likes to promote the claim of a health correlation for red wine consumption. Yet this view is disputed by many health experts.

The Australian Wine Research Institute is holding a conference on these issues 18 – 21 July 2013 at the Sydney Convention Centre. Advertised as ‘an opportunity to bring together world experts for a stimulating exchange of scientific information and ideas on the impacts of wine consumption on human health’, the organisers of the conference titled ‘WineHealth 2013’ say they expect ‘the current evidence base for public policy setting’  will be ‘enhanced’ in relation to the health effect of wine.

The name of the conference, with its explicit health connotations attributed for wine, has been criticised. Director of the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth and Professor at Curtin University, Dr Mike Daube, has condemned the event.

The National Health and Medical Research Council’s publication, ‘Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol’, identifies considerable health risks associated with alcohol consumption. The publication notes that “the potential cardiovascular benefits from alcohol can also be gained from other means, such as exercise or modifying the diet”.

Food law expert, FoodLegal’s Joe Lederman told Australian Food News that the government bodies that had approved the new Health Claims Standard had originally intended that only limited aspects of an alcohol beverage (such as reference to energy or carbohydrate content) would be eligible for mention in marketing of alcohol products.

“However, the wording of the final Health Claims Standard raises some interesting new issues – some of which may not have been intended by Australia’s regulatory agencies,” Mr Lederman added.