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Open Letter of support for Thailand's plans for health warning messages on acoholic beverages

Eurocare (European Alcohol Policy Alliance) has issued today an open letter of support for the Thai government for its plans to introduce alcohol health warnings labels on packages of alcoholic beverages

In January this year Thailand has notified the WTO (Committee on Technical Barrier to Trade) about plans to introduce rotating pictorial warnings on alcoholic beverages contained in different types of containers. The proposal includes:

  • picture printed in 4 colours and 6 types of which one of them is required to be rotated at 1,000 package intervals.

  • 6 types of health warning messages

  • they should cover at least 30% of package

  • prohibition of suggesting on labels that alcohol can improve better health

In the open letter Eurocare expressed its support for the initiative of placing health warning labels on alcoholic beverages and congratulated the Thai government for its courage and willingness to take this step to tackle alcohol related harm.
The significance of the economic costs of ill health has been acknowledged not only by public health community but also economic agencies such as the World Economic Forum in its publication 'Global Risks 2010'. Chronic diseases were placed as one of the top most severe risks facing the world. They scored very high on likelihood and severity indicators. Alcohol is the 3rd main contributory factor globally to chronic diseases (it ranks 2nd in middle income countries and 1st in high income countries) .

Eurocare considers that informing consumers on every occasion when they drink about alcohol related harm will not only allow people to make an informed choice, but also encourage taking a healthier choice. Health warning labels on packages serves this purpose.

The majority of the EU citizens (79%) support health messages on bottles.

Mariann Skar- Eurocare Secretary General said: "We hope that this initiative will lead other public health authorities to consider changes in labelling requirements for alcoholic beverages. However, if there is not the political power and courage to require alcohol producers to inform about side effects of alcohol consumption in their own countries, they should at least allow Thai people to decide for themselves.

In Europe we are far behind and heading in the wrong direction in terms of information provided on alcoholic beverages, the currently discussed Provision of Food Information to Consumers' directive even excludes alcohol from obligation to list ingredients. Consequently, this means that in Europe one will know what is in a bottle of fruit juice but not in a bottle of alcoholic beverage. Europe has really a long road ahead and we hope it will at least not disturb Thailand on the path it has taken."

To see Thai proposed pictorial label please click here

To download this press release please click here

Notes to editors:

Thailand ranks fifth worldwide in alcohol consumption, with the drinking levels rapidly increasing. Annual per capita consumption in 1989 was 20.2 liters, by 2003 per capita consumption had risen to 58.0 liters