Doctors from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) are calling for the Australian Government to introduce mandatory pregnancy warning labels on alcohol products.
“Drinking alcohol while pregnant can lead to birth defects and lifelong neurodevelopmental problems associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders (FASD),” said Professor Paul Colditz, President of Paediatrics and Child Health at the RACP and an alcohol policy expert.
“FASD is the most common and preventable cause of serious brain injury in children in Australia. There is no cure for FASD, so prevention is everything. This is why clear and unambiguous messaging on the harms of drinking while pregnant is important and why such messaging should be mandatory across all alcohol product labels.
“With less than half of alcohol manufacturers currently using pregnancy warning labels we can’t look to the industry to self-regulate.
“There is also an inherent conflict of interest under the current approach where consumers are ultimately directed towards industry websites for warning information and may be exposed to contradictory messages.”
In its submission to the Food Regulation Standing Committee, the RACP makes a number of evidence-based recommendations about how to implement mandatory pregnancy warning labels.
The RACP recommends that behaviour change experts develop new text for warning labels. Graphics should feature on the label to convey the harms of alcohol to an unborn baby.
Consistency of messaging is important so warning labels should be standardised across the industry. Prominence of the labelling is also important.
“We know that pregnancy warning labels alone are not enough to prevent FASD, but we think it’s a step in the right direction for raising public awareness about the dangers of prenatal alcohol exposure,” Professor Colditz said.
The National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016 found only 56 per cent of pregnant women said they abstained from drinking during pregnancy.
(Source: Royal Australasian College of Physicians)