Pregnancy warning labels on alcohol must be mandated – RACP

July 8, 2020

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians is urging all Australian governments to mandate the evidence-based alcohol labelling scheme developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), to warn Australians about the dangers of drinking while pregnant.

The RACP has written a letter to the Ministers on the Forum on Food Regulation asking them to approve the labelling scheme that clearly informs women and their families of the many harms that might result from alcohol use in pregnancy.

The RACP’s call comes as Ministers on the Forum review the FSANZ’s recommendation.

RACP President, Professor John Wilson said, “The alcohol industry has been running a voluntary labelling scheme for eight years. It has not been effective. Less than half of alcohol products on the market contain the industry’s pregnancy warning labels and many of those are also barely noticeable. More must be done.”

“We are urging Ministers to seriously consider the evidence here – and the serious health impacts that would come with overlooking the advice from medical and communication experts and not approving an effective alcohol labelling scheme.

RACP spokesperson and Paediatrician, Professor Liz Elliot, said “There are many harms associated with alcohol use during pregnancy, including miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) – which is the leading non-genetic developmental disability in Australia.

“The evidence is clear that alcohol consumption – while pregnant or not – comes with a range of health risks and negative health outcomes.

“But we have concerns that information about the health risks to pregnant women and their babies may not be as readily available or well known as it should be. 

“Women deserve to have this information readily available so that they can make an informed decision when it comes to alcohol.

“There is an obvious need to mandate these public warnings in the way that ensures that the message gets through. This includes the appropriate size, market-tested wording and the use of red for all labels.”

Research indicates that almost a quarter of Australians are not aware that drinking alcohol when pregnant is harmful to an unborn baby1 and that over 60 percent of women drank alcohol during pregnancy2.

It’s estimated that there are around 75,000 alcohol-exposed pregnancies every year1.

“The immediate implementation of the effective pregnancy warning labels on alcoholic products will have enormous positive impact on the health and wellbeing of Australian children, families and communities.

“The RACP has been supportive of pregnancy warning labels on alcohol products for over a decade – it’s time now for the Australian governments to take this necessary step for the health of the Australian population.” Professor Wilson said.

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