By Rachael Wong
Tri-colour pregnancy warnings on alcoholic beverages will now be mandatory in Australia after the Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation accepted new standards proposed by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand.
The new warning labels will be printed in red, black and white stating, “HEALTH WARNING: Alcohol can cause lifelong harm to your baby”.
While the decision has been met with disappointment by the alcohol industry due to the extra associated costs, it is a huge win for the thousands of children who will have a better chance of escaping irreparable harm before they are even born.
Australian and international guidelines advise that there is no safe level of alcohol exposure for a child while it is still in the womb, or while breastfeeding. Maternal drinking during pregnancy can permanently damage the brain and result in various physical, cognitive, behavioural and neurodevelopmental abnormalities (often referred to as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)).
The move was backed by medical expert and former Australian of the Year Professor Fiona Stanley.
"Alcohol in pregnancy, and its impact on the foetal brain, the baby's brain, is the most important preventable cause of intellectual disability and other developmental disorders in the world," Professor Stanley told the ABC's AM program.
"It's been tested, it's been shown that this kind of label — 90 per cent of women will take notice of, whereas the other labels, which are black and hardly can be seen, hardly any women take notice of, or very much lower percentages."
Professor Stanley said arguments from the alcohol industry that the new scheme will cost hundreds of million dollars to implement “are an absolute furphy”.
"I know they only want to sell grog, and there's enough damage done with alcohol in this country, and I know I'm being very critical of them, but I really don't care, they've got to understand that this is one small thing that they can do to improve humankind.”
We join the wide spectrum of politicians, academics, medical experts and interest groups who have welcomed this important decision.
Rachael Wong is the CEO of Women’s Forum Australia