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PROTECT: Alcohol labelling policies to protect young people

The objective of the project was to build capacity at the European, country and local levels by providing information of the experience, evidence base and need for consumer labelling of alcoholic beverages, particularly to create a supportive environment to help prevent the harmful use of alcohol amongst young people.

Harmful alcohol use is common in young people, and binge drinking is frequent. Active sharing of best practice on consumer labelling targeted at young people should upwardly harmonize policies and programmes to invest in young people's health and well-being.

Methods: PROTECT assessed young people's consumer needs for labelling and gathered experience and best practices on consumer labelling from all Member States, and sought commitment from a range of public and private sector stakeholders to measurable best practice and data sharing.

Deliverables:

  • A report of the focus groups with young people (18-25 years old) conducted in 6 European countries to gather their views on alcohol and labelling.
  • A review of health warning labelling practices . The Catholic University of Applied Science Cologne, in close cooperation with Eurocare conducted a survey of existing practices (both statutory and voluntary) regarding health warnings messages and other information displayed on alcoholic beverages around Europe.
  • Factsheet - Health warning labels on alcoholic beverages. By Walter Farke (Katho NRW) and
    Patrick Veillard (CRIOC)
  • A debate with all stakeholders. For this purpose, a meeting was held on 7 March 2011 in the European parliament (Brussels). The event brought together over 100 representatives from the European institutions, consumer organisations, NGOs and the industry to exchange views on alcohol labelling policies.

Project Partners
PROTECT is a partnership from six consumer organisations (CRIOC – Belgium, INC – France, LNCF – Lithuania, OFE / NACPH – Hungary, ANPCPPS – Romania, MAG – Spain) as well as a NGO (EUROCARE) and an university (Catholic University of Applied Science North Rhine-Westphalia, Cologne). It is funded by the European Commission, with the operational help of the Executive Agency for Health and Consumers.

Rationale and relative merits of the project

Harmful alcohol use is common among younger people, with estimates from the 2007 Eurobarometer survey that as many as 22% of European people aged 15-24 years binge drink (5+ drinks, 50g alcohol on one occasion) at least once a week during the previous 12 months (Eurobarometer 2007). Over 1 in 6 (18%) of EU 15-16 year olds have binged (5+ drinks on a single occasion, 50g alcohol) three times or more in the last month.

Alcohol is a chemical solvent that has toxic effects on the body. It is also drug which has psychoactive effects that underlie its capacity to produce alcohol dependence. Alcohol can also exacerbate pre-existing mental and physical disorders, adversely interact with other prescribed and illicit drugs in the body, and contribute to a wide range of social problems, including accidents and injuries. Young people are at particular risk because of their vulnerability and brain development that takes place during adolescent (De Bellis et al 2000).

With regard to alcohol warning labels, various reviews have concluded that there is little evidence that they have measurable effects on drinking behaviours, although there is evidence that some intervening variables are affected, such as intention to change drinking patterns (Stockwell 2006). The finding of limited impact on behaviour contrasts with evidence from tobacco where there is evidence of impact but this may reflect the nature of the warning labels (Hammond et al 2006). However, despite the limited evidence for an impact, adding warning labels to alcohol containers has a longer-term social utility in helping to establish social understanding that alcohol is a special and hazardous commodity (Anderson 2007).

PROTECT provided the experience and evidence base for warning labels, with planned commitment from different stakeholders for an integrated approach consumer information and education.