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Wednesday, 27 May 1987
Page: 3455

(Question No. 5175)

Mr Scott asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 17 March 1987:

(1) Has his attention been drawn to an article in the Medical Journal of Australia, dated 17 November 1986, entitled `Caffeine: a toxicological overview' by Dr P. J. Abbott.

(2) Is Dr Abbott a senior toxicologist employed by his Department.

(3) Do the views expressed by Dr Abbott represent those of his Department; if not, why not.

(4) If the views expressed by Dr Abbott represent those of his Department, when will he take steps to (a) warn consumers, and in particular, parents of young children, of the dangers associated with the consumption of caffeine and (b) require that all soft drinks, confectionery and similar products containing caffeine, be clearly labelled with the approximate content of caffeine, so that parents of young children can avoid products with a high caffeine content.

Dr Blewett —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Yes.

(2) Yes.

(3) The views expressed in the article are the personal ones of Dr Abbott. I am advised that a review was commissioned by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) as part of its overall examination of caffeine in the diet.

My Department is awaiting the outcome of this review process.

(4) The question of any potential health risk to consumers as a result of caffeine consumption is of great concern to my Department and is under consideration by both the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) and by expert bodies of the NH&MRC including the Women's Health, Child Health and Nutrition Committees. The NCADA has recently issued an information pamphlet which warns of the danger of excessive caffeine intake. Further action in relation to advice to consumers and the possible labelling of foodstuffs will be undertaken once the NH&MRC has made its recommendations.