Warning – can cause disability

The alcohol industry should be devastated by the report that less than 5 per cent of Australian women can recall pregnancy health warnings on alcohol.

The 2009 Blewett Review into health labelling resulted in the Labelling Logic report, which recommended that mandatory warnings against drinking by pregnant women were required. But industry disagreed. It promised the Australian public, and the government, that mandatory warnings on alcohol labels are not needed because industry could do the job voluntarily.

Drinkwise, the Australian alcohol industry’s own social issues organisation, has a policy of recommending to alcohol producers that warnings against drinking by pregnant women should be displayed on all containers of alcohol.

You might think that is a standard duty of care by a manufacturer or distributor of alcohol. This is a product that causes damage to the unborn baby. In some cases that damage is lifelong mental and physical disability, frequently leading to a life of disappointment, frustration, confusion, disorder, even criminality and imprisonment. So you might think that no alcohol maker or distributor would sell a bottle or can without a prominent warning. You might even think that no maker or distributor would want a pregnant woman to consume the product, given no one knows whether there is a safe level of consumption for a pregnant women or breast feeding mother; or what that level might be, or whether it differs at different stages of pregnancy.
To be safe, the National Health and Medical Research Council says it’s best if women who are pregnant or planning pregnancy, or breastfeeding, just avoid drinking alcohol for that time .

Not to worry said Drinkwise, we will do the job and make sure alcohol products are labelled properly so that every female knows that pregnant women face a danger in drinking alcohol.

According to the latest review of labelling, just 4.3 per cent of pregnant women, women who are planning to become pregnant, and mothers of infants, recalled seeing a warning message on alcohol products. Also, only 5.7 per cent of 5400 males and females said (unprompted) they were aware of the pregnancy warnings on alcohol products

Part of the problem lies in the inability of Drinkwise to convince its members to place the warnings on alcohol containers as only 38% of products carry the warning.

The head of the Brewers Association isn’t concerned though because, while the warnings are important, “…they can’t compare with the information women get from their health professional or GP”.

So, are they honestly serious about the warning, or not? No. They always leave it to someone else.

All the more surprising when that someone else doesn’t want to do it either. Last month the Federal and State ministers in charge of food regulation agreed that the industry could continue voluntary labelling. The taxpayer will continue to foot the bill for the lifelong preventable in vitro damage to infants caused by alcohol.

Which raises another point: what other product, known to cause lifelong disability to the foetus in the womb would be granted the freedom to control its own warning messages?

GrogWatch wants to know what you think. Do you think alcohol should carry mandatory warnings?