Page last updated: October 18, 2017

A review of the evidence on standard drink labelling

Understanding the concept of a standard drink (SD) is foundational knowledge to many public health policies aimed at reducing alcohol-related harms. These policies include adhering to low-risk drinking guidelines, screening brief intervention and referral activities, and counter alcohol-impaired driving initiatives. A lack of awareness of SDs might preclude the effectiveness of these interventions. A systematic review was conducted to review the evidence about how effective alcohol labels are in communicating SD information to the consumer.

A systematic review was conducted to identify peer-reviewed articles and grey literature from relevant indexes from January 1990 to January 2016. Additionally, policy makers and researchers in countries where standard drink labels (SDLs) have been implemented were consulted to help identify relevant literature. The search strategy was focused on the impact of SDLs relative to a range of outcomes, including awareness of SDs, pouring behaviours, and consumption patterns.

Eleven records were eligible for inclusion. The evidence suggests that knowledge of the definition of an SD is low. However, SDLs can help individuals more accurately identify and pour an SD. SDLs need to be supported by educational initiatives to help the consumer understand the SD information provided on the beverage container. To date, there has been no comprehensive evaluation of the impact of SDLs.

The authors conclude that SDLs have the potential to increase awareness of SDs and facilitate the monitoring of personal alcohol consumption in the context of a comprehensive alcohol strategy. However, their impact on drinking behaviours requires further exploration, especially among high-risk populations.

Source: Can a label help me drink in moderation? A review of the evidence on standard drink labelling. Wettlaufer A, Substance Use and Misuse, Published early online 22 September 2017.


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