Alcohol, soft drinks and junk food could become the next products to carry graphic health warning labels on their packaging, according to a top lawyer.
Following the precedent set by plain packaging laws and warning labels on tobacco, a senior partner from law firm Herbert Smith Freehills has told Fairfax Media regulators could consider expanding the labelling program to other unhealthy products.
Benjamin Rubinstein, whose firm is representing British American Tobacco in challenging the World Trade Organization over the new packaging and labelling rules, said beer bottles in Australia could soon carry a picture of a cirrhotic liver as a health warning.
"I think there have been rumbling among the public health community about what's next: is it just tobacco?” he told Fairfax. “What about sugary foods? Fatty foods? What about alcohol?"
Tobacco, he said, was often used as “the canary in the coal mine” for public health authorities in deciding how to encourage healthier lifestyles.
Rubinstein argued there were limits on what action authorities could take, referring to freedom of speech and property rights.
It's not the first time experts have suggested Australian governments will extend plain packaging past cigarettes and over to unhealthy foods or alcohol.
Since plain packaging laws on tobacco products were introduced in 2011 there have been many memes, like the one below, of a McDonalds burger covered in plain packaging.
This photo-shopped image, which was posted on social sharing site Reddit, carries the warning: "Big Macs make big children."
Initial research suggests Plain packaging on cigarettes has a positive impact on public health.