Call for revision of alcohol labels to prevent harm to babies

A study has shown that one in three Australian women is drinking while pregnant or breastfeeding, prompting the Australian Drug Foundation and VicHealth to renew calls for health advisory labels on all alcohol products.

The labels would better inform consumers and help prevent harm. The consumption of alcohol during pregnancy can contribute to foetal alcohol syndrome, miscarriages, prematurity or still-birth.

“At the moment, there is more information on a carton of milk than a bottle of alcohol. People have the right to know what they are drinking and how it can impact their health and their baby’s health, so that they can make more informed decisions about the drinks they purchase and consume,” said John Rogerson, CEO of the Australian Drug Foundation.

The Alcohol Education & Rehabilitation Foundation survey showed that expectant or new mothers have an awareness of the dangers alcohol poses to their babies; however health labels would provide an instant reminder of the risks.

“Health labels can play a role in influencing consumer behaviour, because they target people at that critical point of decision-making,” said Rogerson.

At least 43 countries already require some form of on-product labelling, with 14 of these having mandatory health labels primarily around alcohol use and pregnancy. Previously released figures from VicHealth showed that 85 per cent of Victorians support the introduction of labels detailing health information on alcohol products.

Australian alcohol companies aren’t required to list ingredients on their products or display labels about the associated risk of disease or illness.

“There is no reason why alcohol, which is inherently harmful, is subject to less regulation in this regard than a carton of milk,” said Todd Harper, CEO VicHealth. “The community wants the Government to make health information and labels mandatory rather than a voluntary system implemented by the alcohol industry.”


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