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Health Warning Labels

Health warning labels (HWL), either mandated by governments or provided voluntarily by alcohol producers in a number of countries, are used to offer directional information about drinking on beverage containers and packaging. They tend to take the form of reminders about general health risks associated with alcohol consumption, health risks of drinking during pregnancy, and dangers of drinking while driving or operating machinery. Labels may also include additional information, such as reference to official drinking guidelines and information on alcohol units or standard drinks. The table below lists both government-mandated and voluntary HWLs in a number of countries. (Last updated: March 2011)

 

Country Mandated / Voluntary Warning Label Text/Guidance Other Warning Label Requirements, Source

Argentina

Mandated

“Drink in moderation”

“Sale prohibited to persons under 18 years of age”

See Law no. 24.788 of 5 March 1997: National Law on the Prevention of Alcoholism

Brazil

Mandated

“Avoid the excessive consumption of alcohol”

Applied to beverage alcohol (13.GL or higher).

See Law N.9.294, 15 July 1996

Brazil

Voluntary

On packages and labels, it is reiterated that sale and consumption of the product are only for persons older than 18 years

Applied to beverages below 13.GL.

See Conselho Nacional de Autorregulamentação Publicitária, CONAR

Chile

Voluntary

“CCU asks you to drink responsibly”

“Product for those 18 and older”

HWL are placed on Compañia Cevecerias Unidas S.A. (CCU) products.

China

Voluntary

Recommended:

“Overdrinking is harmful to heath”

“Pregnant women and children shall not drink”

See GB10344-2005: General Standard for the Labeling of Prepackaged Alcoholic Beverages

Colombia

Mandated

“An excess of alcohol is harmful to your health”

See Decree No. 1298 DE 1994

Costa Rica

Mandated

“Drinking alcohol is harmful to your health”

“Alcohol abuse is harmful to your health”

Health warnings must appear clearly visible. Proportions need to be such that the warning is distinguishable from any other writing, and it shall be printed in a color contrasting that used for other writing.

See Decree no. 15549-S: Alcoholic Beverages - Health Warning Labels

Ecuador

Mandated

“Warning: The excessive consumption of alcohol limits your capacity to operate machinery and can cause harm to your health and family”

“The sale of this product is prohibited for those younger than 18 years old”

Warnings must be legible, using distinguishable colors and occupy 10% of the total surface area.

See Reglamento General a la Ley Organica de Defense del Consumidor Publicada en el Suplemento del Registro Official, No. 116 del 10 de Julio del 2000

El Salvador

Mandated

“The excessive consumption of this product is harmful to health and creates addiction. Its sale is banned to those under 18 years of age”

See Ley Reguladora de la Produccion y Comercializacion del Alcohol y las bebidas alcoholicas, Decree no. 587

France

Mandated

“Drinking alcoholic beverages during pregnancy even in small quantities can have grave/serious consequences for the health of the baby”

OR use the government-issued symbol showing a diagonal line being superimposed on an image of a pregnant woman holding a glass

Packaging of all beverage alcohol products sold or distributed (including for free as promotion) in France must have at least one of the two health messages recommending that pregnant women do not drink alcohol.

The health message must appear in the same visual field as the obligatory labeling on the alcohol content.

The warning message must be written on a contrasting background in a manner that is visible, reliable, clear, understandable, and indelible.

See http://www.vins-bourgogne.fr/connaitre/la-terre-de-bourgogne/l-etiquetage/gallery_files/site/321/360.pdf

Germany

Mandated for "sweet alcoholic drinks" (i.e., alcopops)

“Sale prohibited to persons under 18 years of age.”

The HWL must be displayed on the packaging in the same typeface, size, and color as the brand or trade name or, where there is neither, as the product designation; on bottles, the warning must be displayed on the front of the packaging.

See Federal Ministry of Justice Youth Protection Law

Guatemala

Mandated

“The excess consumption of this product is harmful to the consumer’s health”

Guatemalan Congress decree 90-97, issued 1997, Articulo 49: La Publicidad y el Consumo Perjudicial

Japan

Voluntary

“Drinking alcohol during pregnancy or nursing may adversely affect the development of your fetus or child”

“Be careful not to drink in excess”

“Drink in moderation”

Displayed in an easy-to-read location on the container, using uniform Japanese font, at least 6 pts in size.

See Self-Regulatory Code of Advertisement Practices and Container Labeling for Alcoholic Beverages

Mexico

Mandated

“Abuse of this product is hazardous to your health”

See Article 218 of the General Health Law

Russian Federation

Mandated

“Alcohol is not for children and teenagers up to age 18, pregnant & nursing women, or for persons with diseases of the central nervous system, kidneys, liver, and other digestive organs”

Must label wine and vodka and other spirits.

See Ministry of Health in a decree dated January 19, 2007 No. 49

South Africa

Mandated

“Alcohol reduces driving ability, don’t drink and drive”

“Don’t drink and walk on the road, you may be killed”

“Alcohol increases your risk to personal injuries”

“Alcohol is a major cause of violence and crime”

“Alcohol abuse is dangerous to your health”

“Alcohol is addictive”

“Drinking during pregnancy can be harmful to your unborn baby”

(1) Container labels for alcohol beverages must contain at least one of the [seven] health messages.

(2) A health message referred to in subregulation shall – (i) be visible, legible, and indelible and the legibility thereof shall not be affected by any other matter, printed or otherwise; (ii) be on a space specifically devoted for it, which must be at least one eight of the total size of the container label; and (iii) be in black on a white background.

See Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, 1972 - Regulations Relating to Health Messages on Container Labels of Alcoholic Beverages, 24 August 2007

Taiwan

Mandated

“Excessive drinking endangers health”

See The Tobacco and Alcohol Administration Act (2009-06-25)

Thailand

Mandated

“Liquor drinking may cause cirrhosis and sexual impotency”

“Drunk driving may cause disability or death”

“Liquor drinking may cause less consciousness and death”

“Liquor drinking is dangerous to health and causes less consciousness”

“Liquor drinking is harmful to you and destroys your family”

Warning pictures and messages for disadvantages or dangers of alcoholic beverages shall be made in pictures with 4 colors …, provided that each form shall be used for 1,000 containers: (a) if the containers are square shape, the warning pictures shall have the size of not less than 50% (b) if the containers are in cylindrical shape, the warning pictures shall have the size of not less than 40% of the total space of the containers.

See Alcohol Beverage Control Act B.E. 2551 (2008)

United Kingdom

Voluntary

“The Chief Medical Officer recommend men do not regularly exceed 3-4 units daily and women, 2-3 units daily”

Labels also include the website address of the Drinkaware Trust (www.drinkaware.co.uk), a national charity providing consumer information about alcohol, and one of the three following messages as a heading: “Know Your Limits,” “Enjoy Responsibly,” or “Drink Responsibly.”

See http://www.dh.gov.uk/

United States

Mandated

GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems”

The health warning statement must appear on the brand label or separate front label, or on a back or side label, separate and apart from all other information.

It must be readily legible under ordinary conditions, and must appear on a contrasting background. Furthermore, labels bearing the warning must be firmly affixed to the container.

The words ‘‘GOVERNMENT WARNING’’ must appear in capital letters and in bold type.

Minimum type size is specified for containers of various sizes.

See Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Part 16 – Alcoholic Beverage Health Warning Statement, § 16.21 Mandatory Label Information

Uzbekistan Mandated  

Beverage alcohol containers must include a medical warning occupying not less than 40% of the basic area of the label in the form of text and/or images.

See Law 302 On restriction of Distribution and Taking of Alcohol and Tobacco Products