Push to ban alcoholic energy drinks in Victoria

VICTORIAN Health Minister David Davis is awaiting two reports on the safety of alcoholic energy drinks as he faces calls to ban them after the death of a Melbourne schoolgirl.

VicHealth - a government-funded agency promoting good health - issued a stinging attack on the manufacturers of the ''blackout in a can'' drinks that the parents of Sara Milosevic fear may have contributed to her death.

VicHealth chief executive Jerril Rechter said a ban was the only option. She said VicHealth was calling on the state government to lead a national push against the drinks.

''Why do alcohol companies continue to manufacture high-potency alcopops with added caffeine that are specifically marketed to appeal to our riskiest drinkers: young people?'' Ms Rechter said.

''These irresponsible and dangerous products have already caused deaths in America and, sadly, now are suspect No. 1 in the death of Victorian teenager Sara Milosevic.''

The Age reported yesterday

Melbourne teen Sara Milosevic.

Mr Davis said during question time yesterday that the regulation of energy drinks was a ''significant community issue'' but should be done at a national level. He said the government would consider its stance after reading two reports, which were started more than a year ago, about the damage caused by caffeine and alcohol.

''There's currently insufficient research about the effects of these energy drinks … and I think health ministers and food regulation ministers around the country are concerned about this area,'' he said.

''The truth is there's emerging evidence there may be serious adverse affects from this combination.''

Mr Davis said the government was waiting for the intergovernmental committee on drugs to compile a report on alcoholic energy drink consumption, which was started last March and referred to at the time as an ''urgent plan''.

The Australian-New Zealand food regulation ministerial council is also yet to deliver findings on monitoring caffeine levels in products, a review started last May.

Carrum MP Donna Bauer, who raised her concerns about alcoholic energy drinks in March after meeting with Sara's parents, Predrag and Mila, as their local member, agreed it was unfortunate that it was taking so long to compile evidence on the drinks.

''The more I looked into it, the more alarmed I was about what I was seeing in the research,'' she said. ''I think a lot of people really had not thought of this as a health risk before now.''

A spokeswoman for federal Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler said the federal government regulated the alcohol and caffeine content of drinks through measures such as the National Food Standards Code and labelling requirements for alcoholic drinks.

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