Australia: Pregnancy warnings on alcoholic beverages will now be mandatory

Two bottles of brightly coloured drinks and their labels.
The bottle on the left features the new tri-colour warning. The one on the right does not.(Supplied: AHRC)

Multi-coloured pregnancy warnings on alcoholic beverages will be mandatory in Australia after the Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation accepted new standards proposed by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand.

New warning labels will need to be printed in red, black and white, and will sit underneath a heading reading ‘Pregnancy Warning’.

The alcohol industry said it supported making warnings mandatory but warned that mandating the use of colours would be costly.​

A label shows the silhouette of a pregnant woman drinking with the words HEALTH WARNING: Alcohol can cause lifelong harm to baby
In three years alcoholic beverages will need this label warning pregnant women about the dangers of drinking.(Supplied: FSANZ)

Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) CEO, Caterina Giorgi, said the changes would help reduce Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.​

“We’re really pleased that today ministers have decided to support this label, and that it’s a label that is visible, and a label that will clearly communicate the risks of harms of consuming alcohol when pregnant​,” she said.

A win for campaigners and Human Rights Commissioner

Ms Giorgi said the move toward more prominent labels would do more than just raise awareness of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

“This is really important for the whole community,” she said.

The news was also welcomed by Aboriginal Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar.

Prior to the vote, Commissioner Oscar wrote to the Ministerial Forum compelling members to pass the reforms, arguing it was an easy step to take to improve health outcomes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Wine label showing alcohol content and small symbol a line through a pregnant woman drinking
Previous warning labels were more discrete.(ABC Rural: Caitlyn Gribbin)

Alcohol industry representatives ‘deeply disappointed’

Australian Grape and Wine Chief Executive, Tony Battaglene, said he was ‘deeply disappointed’ by the decision.

“We were hoping for a pragmatic solution that would have delivered benefits to those people at risk, and also provide an economical solution for business,” he said.

Under the new regulations, alcohol producers will have three years to update their labels to the new standard.

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The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the FASD Prevention Conversation Project, its stakeholders, or funders.

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