After 7 years of lobbying by health ministers, soon every bottle of alcohol in Australia will carry a pregnancy warning label.
In 2011 alcohol companies were given a 7 year window to implement the labels and currently 75 per cent of bottles have the pregnancy warnings. It is now mandatory that all bottles have the labels, after Australian and New Zealand ministers came to an agreement.
The label must include a pictogram and warning statement developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
According to the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education chief executive Michael Thorn, the decision is crucial and will help save lives and prevent lifelong disabilities.
He believed that too many women were unaware of the risks of drinking while pregnant and these mandatory labels will educate them of these life-threatening risks.
Brewers Association of Australia CEO Brett Heffernan also fully supported the move and said his industry was already 100 per cent compliant.
“While it is disappointing that mandating pregnancy labelling for all packaged alcohol products is necessary, today’s decision by Ministers is a no-brainer. We fully expected this outcome,” he said.
“The three major brewers got the job done, across hundreds of product labels, in just two years.”
There is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy to negate the risks of neurological disability, yet it is estimated that almost 50% of women drink while pregnant. However a study published in the British Medical Journal revealed that pregnancy drinking dropped significantly in the second and third trimesters which suggests that women drink early in pregnancy when they don’t yet know they are pregnant.
The decision to have mandatory pregnancy drinking warning labels introduced was also welcomed by Terry Slevin, CEO of Public Health Association of Australia. He applauded the ministers decision which would help prevent babies being born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) and other birth defects.
“The next logical step for alcohol warning labels is for Australia to follow Ireland’s lead and introduce mandatory labels which warn of the risks associated between drinking alcohol and developing cancer,” Mr Slevin said.
The safest option for pregnant women is to abstain from alcohol completely.