Alcohol-flavoured confectionery, including fudge, Australian health experts warn, are dangerously contributing to the 'binge-drinking' culture.
They have accused the makers of Jim Beam bourbon and Bundaberg rum of trying to entice children to their brands by selling fudge that tastes like alcohol, reports The Age.
Packaged in mini fridge containers, the confectionery contains no alcohol but is strongly flavoured like the popular alcoholic drinks and is on sale at supermarkets and other major stores.
The Australian Drug Foundation has condemned the products and wants them to be sold only in liquor shops.
"In the government guidelines it states that kids under the age of 18 shouldn't drink alcohol and products like this only serve to normalise alcohol and potentially introduce kids to the idea of it and the taste of it at an early age," said policy adviser Sarah Jaggard.
"When every state and territory's struggling to reduce alcohol-related problems, why would you provide a link between alcohol and confectionery, which definitely appeals to kids, especially if it's placed near Christmas stockings?" she added.
Public health campaigners have accused alcohol companies of using devious methods to bolster brand recognition among young people in a bid to get around bans on advertising to children.
Research shows that the earlier children are exposed to alcohol advertising the more likely they are to drink at harmful levels later in life.
However, Stephen Riden, spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia, which represents Beam Global Spirits and Wine and the Bundaberg Distilling Company, denied that confectionery flavoured like bourbon or whisky was designed to appeal to under-18s.
"This is a straightforward brand licensing deal where a well-known brand is licensed for another product in a completely different market," he said.
"The confectionery is just for people who like the Jim Beam brand ... There is no alcohol in them so no child is getting their hands on alcohol," he added.
He said the fudge did not breach the industry's self-regulated Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code, and companies did not control how stores displayed items.