Alcohol in pregnancy: warning labels now to be included on alcohol products

Jul 23, 2020

New Zealand has recently set a precedent for the rest of the world, by agreeing to have a strong pregnancy health warning on all alcohol products.  

In July, Australian health ministers and New Zealand’s Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor voted in favour of the best practice warning label which includes a specific pictogram accompanied by a warning text.   Alcohol companies have three years to implement the changes, which requires manufacturers to include this specific label on the back of every bottle.  For more information, click here.

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O’Connor recently advised that hundreds of babies are born each year with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).  The Ministry of Health estimates that between 3 and 5 percent of school aged children are affected by FASD; so this means that 30,000 children and young people may have some degree of the disorder.  Caused by the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy, FASD can result in intellectual and behavioural issues, as well as irreversible damage to the brain and body; "There's now conclusive scientific evidence that says it does affect the foetus and it does affect children born with lifetime consequences."

The move has been met with scepticism from some in the alcohol industry, claiming there is already a voluntary labelling system, concerns about the cost of introducing labels and whether labels are an effective strategy, and believe more needs to come other sources instead such as healthcare providers.  

NPiS applauds the move and would like to thank agencies including Alcohol Healthwatch for continuing to advocate for this change.  Dr Nicki Jackson from Alcohol Healthwatch points out the that move has been a long time coming, with their agency first campaigning for the warning labels two decades ago; "It's been 20 years and it's been 20 years of families living with FASD and struggling and continuously struggling, so this win is really for them and for future families growing up in New Zealand and Australia.”

Read more about this journey and the recent successful outcome in July from sources including the Beehive, Alcohol Healthwatch, Radio New Zealand and TVNZ 1.

Nicki Jackson also wishes to recognise and honour the many people that have struggled, and continue to struggle, with the lifelong disability of FASD.   The Sunday programme on TV1 Recently had a special feature on FASD, click on the picture below to watch.

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NPiS was one of an extensive list of agencies which supported this ground-breaking decision by signing the open letter encouraging Ministers to vote for the best practice label.  Alcohol warning labels are just one part of an overall strategy that agencies such as NPiS and Alcohol Healthwatch will continue to advocate towards reducing alcohol related harm in our communities