Alcohol producers in New Zealand and Australia will be forced to add warning labels to their products relating to the risks of drinking during pregnancy after an agreement was reached by ministers from both countries.
The decision was made at the Australia New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation in Adelaide.
It was agreed that, based on the evidence, a mandatory labelling standard for pregnancy warning labels on packaged alcoholic beverages should be developed and should include a pictogram and relevant warning statement. The forum requested Food Standards Australia New Zealand to develop this mandatory labelling standard as a priority and that the work “be completed expeditiously”.
The alcohol industry in both countries has applied pregnancy warning labels to packaged alcoholic beverages on a voluntary basis since late 2011 and the forum recognised the efforts of a large segment of the sector, including many small businesses, in voluntarily adopting pregnancy labelling.
In recognition of these efforts, the forum called for comprehensive consultation and appropriate transition timelines and stock-in-trade exemptions on new arrangements.
New Zealand food safety minister Damien O’Connor said: “While the alcohol industry has been voluntarily including warnings on some products for the past six years, there is no consistency in the type, colour, size and design, reducing the effectiveness of the message.”
“There has been strong and sound support from a range of groups calling for mandatory labelling and I’m pleased today we were able to take this step.
“Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of pregnancy complications and can cause permanent damage to the brain and body of the developing foetus.
“A standard message that is clear and consistent on the importance of not drinking while pregnant will be easy to implement and benefit all New Zealanders.”
The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) welcomed the announcement and commended those involved in the reform. PHAA CEO Terry Slevin said: “It’s important to provide Australian women who are pregnant, or considering pregnancy, with clear and accurate advice about the risks of drinking during pregnancy, with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder being the most significant.
“This is a small but helpful step in tackling foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, however more work on this terrible scourge is needed, particularly in some remote communities where incidence is very high.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019
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