‘On the Bottle’: Alcohol Labelling Developments in International Trade Law
Since 2010, the World Health Organization has advocated the use of health information labelling to inform consumers of the health risks related to alcohol consumption. The alcohol industry oscillates between opposing and supporting alcohol labelling. This paper identifies, in the international trade law debates, the six features of alcohol warning label proposals that aggravate major alcohol exporters (and the industry within those countries) and cause trade-based objections to be raised about the proposals.
The features of concern to the industry include the use of graphic tobacco-style warnings on alcohol, and any mention of cancer’ as a risk arising from alcohol consumption. The paper then considers whether there is good evidence to support the use of these contested features in public health labelling of alcohol beverages. It concludes by urging that countries remain resolute in their commitment to effective public health labelling, despite increasing pressure from industry to abandon such policies, including on the basis of international trade law arguments.
Paula O'Brien is a Senior Lecturer, Co-Director of the Health and Medical Law Masters, and co-convenor of the Health Law and Ethics Network at Melbourne Law School. She has a BA/LLB (Hons) from The University of Melbourne and an LLM from the University of Cambridge, specialising in international law. Her primary research interest relates to the regulation of harmful commodities, in particular alcohol. She has written on many aspects of the domestic and international regulation of alcohol, including its labelling, advertising, pricing, licensing and trade as a global commodity. Her current doctoral work is on the self-regulation of the labelling and marketing of alcohol.
Paula also writes about the right to health, and has published papers on accountability in health care for asylum seekers in detention, the phenomenon of privatisation, the global shortage of health workers, and access to health care for migrant workers and their families in Australia. Paula uses her research to make submissions and provide advice to government and non-government bodies about public health law.