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Anomalous warning labels on alcoholic energy drink cans

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To the Editor: Despite longstanding calls for mandatory evidence-based warning labels on alcoholic beverages or at point of sale,1 they remain elusive and are actively resisted by industry groups.2

There is widespread ignorance of the current Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol3 as well as the recommended daily limits for consuming highly caffeinated energy drinks. In high enough quantities, caffeine is toxic; consequently, some advisory labelling is already mandated for these controversial “soft” drinks.4 These labels are often difficult to find, and if the caffeine is from guarana only, a statement that the drink contains caffeine is the only warning required. This has resulted in anomalous and confusing labelling on cans of the even more contentious alcoholic energy drinks5 — such that consumers could be forgiven for thinking the alcohol component is not as potentially injurious to their health as the caffeine.

Based on caffeine content, labelling on cans that also contain between 1.3 and 1.9 standard drinks of alcohol advises a limit of two cans per day, which equates to a daily intake of between 2.6 and 3.8 standard drinks of alcohol. This exceeds the limit recommended…