NOFASD Australia supports the implementation of a mandatory pregnancy health warning label on all alcohol products and packaging sold in Australia.
NOFASD Australia believes that it is unacceptable that alcohol products, a proven teratogen, or agent that can cause harm to the developing fetus, continue to be sold without a health warning.
NOFASD Australia advocates that for alcohol product health warning labels to be effective they must include the following evidence-based parameters:
- Text and a symbol
- Text to be proceeded with the words “Health Warning”
- Label to be demarcated by a prominent black border
- Size of the label should ensure clear visibility
- The size of the health warning label should be a specific percentage determined by the size of the container and the size of the alcohol product label
- Placed in a prominent position on the alcohol product container, preferably on the front of the product container or package
- Size, font and application of health warning labels should be consistent across all products
NOFASD Australia strongly believes that the implementation of a mandatory pregnancy health warning label on all alcohol products must coincide with a comprehensive national public education campaign.
Advocating for a pregnancy health warning label in Australia – A Brief History
23 October 2009: The Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council agreed to undertake a review of food labelling law and policy.
28 January 2011: An independent panel, chaired by Dr Neal Blewett AC, presented its final Report entitled Labelling Logic to the Chair of the Ministerial Council the Hon Catherine King, Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing.
Labelling Logic contained five recommendations on alcohol health warning labels (recommendations 24, 25, 26, 27 and 55). Recommendation 25 related specifically to a pregnancy health warning label on alcohol products:
That a suitably worded warning message about the risks of consuming alcohol while pregnant be mandated on individual containers of alcoholic beverages and at the point of sale for unpackaged alcoholic beverages, as support for ongoing broader community education.
Government response to recommendation 25:
FoFR committed to the commencement of this recommendation within 2 years. FoFR acknowledged recent industry initiatives to implement voluntary labelling schemes and was advised by the Standing Council on Health that pursuing warnings about the risks of consuming alcohol while pregnant is prudent but, noting the voluntary steps industry has already taken in this area, suggested that industry should be allowed a period of two years to adopt voluntary initiatives before regulating for this change.
2011 – 2012: the Australian alcohol industry, through the industry-funded DrinkWise organisation, voluntarily developed ‘consumer information messages’ to be displayed on alcohol products and packaging. These messages include:
- ‘Kids and Alcohol Don’t Mix’
- ‘Is your drinking harming yourself or others?’
- ‘It is safest not to drink while pregnant’
- A silhouette of a pregnant woman with a strike through it
- ‘Get the facts drinkwise.org.au’
NOFASD Australia does not support this industry-led voluntary labelling initiative and believes that the Australian Government must adopt a mandatory approach to alcohol product labelling, including a pregnancy health warning label on all alcohol products.
August 2012: The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education conducted an audit of health warning labels on alcohol products in Australia. The audit demonstrated that the DrinkWise led labelling initiative was not broadly adopted with only 16% of products audited containing a DrinkWise consumer information label. The majority of labels appeared as a very small proportion of the alcohol product label (less than 5%) and were inconspicuously placed on the back of the product.
May 2013: NOFASD Australia lobbied State and Territory health ministers to place the issue of a pregnancy health warning label on all alcohol products on the agenda of the June FoFR meeting.
14 June 2013: The Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation held a meeting with discussions including pregnancy warnings on alcohol labels. In summary, Food Regulation Ministers noted that a project to evaluate action taken by the alcohol industry in Australia in placing pregnancy warnings on alcohol products will commence shortly. While it was agreed to await the outcome of the independent review, Food Regulation Ministers have asked FSANZ to provide advice on the steps that would be required to regulate and have agreed to hold an extraordinary meeting as soon as the review report becomes available.
September 2013: The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education released a second Alcohol Label Audit conducted by Ipsos Social Research Institute. The Audit examined uptake of the alcohol industry’s DrinkWise ‘consumer information labels.’ When looking at the alcohol pregnancy warning label specifically, the Audit found that 26 per cent of products carried a DrinkWise alcohol pregnancy warning label. More broadly, the Audit found that labels are still only applied to 37 per cent of alcohol products and that a vast majority (86 per cent) of these labels took up less than 5 per cent of the alcohol label or face of packaging. 92 per cent of the labels were placed on the back, side or bottom of the product. Read the report
The alcohol industry is now pressing hard to try and prove that their voluntary scheme is working. Visit Drink Tank for a critique of current alcohol industry-led product labelling.
Watch this space for the latest developments as NOFASD Australia continues to advocate for a mandatory pregnancy health warning label on all alcohol products and packaging in Australia.