Melissa Sweet, Croakey, 15 July 2020
As previously reported at Croakey, the road to alcohol regulation has been long and fiercely contested. This Friday, Australian and New Zealand Food Forum Ministers will decide whether to support an effective health warning on alcohol labelling. Or alcohol industry lobbying may result in a watered-down version.
A strong message of support for the label below has been sent by more than 150 leading health, medical and social sector organisations and thousands of community leaders and advocates – including former Governor-General Quentin Bryce – who have signed an open letter launched today.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and Australian Medical Association (AMA) have also released a joint statement, together with new consumer data testing showing that a red, black and white label with the words ‘health warning’ is the most visible and relevant warning, and best way of alerting people to the risk that drinking alcohol in pregnancy can cause lifelong harm to babies.
“Most Australians don’t understand the true extent of the harm caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy,” AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, said in the statement.
“All the research and evidence indicate that red colouring, contrast, and appropriate wording are key to a noticeable warning label. The cost to industry of implementing these features in a label is minimal compared to the benefits a clear warning will have for the health of Australian children and their families.”
Health consumer advocate and broadcaster Julie McCrossin, a signatory to the letter, yesterday told ABC’s Radio National that she was “flabbergasted and shocked” by the alcohol industry’s “unconscionable behaviour” in lobbying against action to protect babies.
Dear Food Forum Ministers,
For families, the most important thing in life is the health and wellbeing of our children.
That’s why it matters to all of us that our families have access to clear information about the health and safety of the products they buy – especially products that may harm our children.
Alcohol can cause brain damage in unborn babies when consumed during pregnancy – a condition known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Alcohol can also lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight and developmental problems.
Yet these products have never before been legally required to carry a health warning.
Thankfully, that’s about to change. We are all in agreement that we need a mandatory label. Now our independent food authority has developed a clear and visible label that, with your support, will soon appear on all alcohol products sold in Australia and New Zealand.
This will replace the ineffective and confusing label applied inconsistently by some alcohol producers to date.
You will soon be meeting to decide whether to support this carefully designed label. As you do so, we ask that you put the health and wellbeing of Australian children first by supporting the evidence-based design in full.
Watering down the label through changes to its colour, size or wording, would be risking the health and wellbeing of thousands of Australians for years to come.
As a community, we want Aussie kids to have the best start in life. Help our community give them that by supporting this new label without further delay.
See the full list of signatories here.
Also see Croakey’s archive on alcohol and health.