” The health costs of inaction would be greater than those incurred by the alcohol industry.
It is our responsibility as a nation to ensure that all of our citizens have a right to know of these harms.
FASD is 100 per cent preventable. People in our community have a right to know.”
Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner, June Oscar, has written to the Ministerial Forum of Food Regulation urging the body to implement stronger pregnancy warnings on alcoholic beverages. Originally published here
- The Ministerial Forum of Food Regulation is holding a vote today ( July 17 ) on whether pregnancy warning labels in red, black and white are needed
- The alcohol industry says the financial costs of applying the labels would be millions of dollars
- Health experts argue the labels would help reduce rates of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder
The letter came one day out from today’s key vote on alcohol labels, which will determine whether all pregnancy warnings will need to be printed in red, black and white.
In the letter, which is co-signed by 52 members of the Close the Gap Campaign, June Oscar asked ministers to take an “easy step” to protect unborn children from foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)
“Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has designed that effective warning, based on extensive research and consultation.”
“The red, black and white health warning they propose clearly alerts the community to the harm from using alcohol when pregnant and the risks to unborn babies and should be supported.”
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, while Indigenous women drink less on average than the rest of the female population, some Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by FASD.
Clinicians argue new labels key to reducing FASD
Prior to taking up her role at the Australian Human Rights Commission, June Oscar spent years working with communities in the Fitzroy Valley affected by FASD.
The commissioner said there are still many people in Australia who don’t know the risks of consuming alcohol whilst pregnant.
“I think many people do, but there are so many that I’ve had conversations with that have said to me that they wish they had known,” she said.
Also urging the government to implement the proposed new label is University of Sydney Professor of Paediatrics Dr Elizabeth Elliot.
The FASD specialist said she is constantly surprised at how little is known about the potential risks of drinking whilst pregnant.
“Many women drink during pregnancy, probably about 60 per cent of women in Australia, and many of those are not aware of the potential harms to their unborn child, or indeed their own health and the outcomes of their pregnancy.”
University of Sydney Professor of Paediatrics Dr Elizabeth Elliot argues alcohol label reform is key to better health outcomes.(Supplied)
The doctor said a label featuring prominent colours like red, black and white is more likely to change behaviour and spread the message to the wider community.
“We know from studies that labels will change awareness, knowledge and practice.
“It’s important that the community as a whole understands the harms, so that they can support women to stop drinking during pregnancy.”
Alcohol industry pushes back
Alcohol Beverages Australia CEO Andrew Wilsmore said the industry he represents was “absolutely committed” to adequate pregnancy warnings.
But he said the requirement to make labels red, black and would be an overstep that would cost businesses money they don’t have right now.
“The mandating of three colours does come at a substantial cost at a very critical time for our industry,” he said.
“It would cost the industry a one-off cost of over $400 million, and $200 million ongoing.”
Alcohol Beverages Australia CEO Andrew Wilsmore said the requirement to make labels red, black and would be an overstep that would cost businesses money they don’t have.(ABC News: Dane Meale)
Andrew Wilsmore said if the change to labelling was implemented, smaller craft alcohol producers would be most impacted.
“They’ve got higher costs involved in label changes than the efficiencies you can gain from some of the larger operators”
“These guys are small businesses. They’ve mortgaged their house. They can’t make money magically appear to appease a regulatory decision by bureaucrats.”
Health vs business costs
But June Oscar says the health costs of inaction would be greater than those incurred by the alcohol industry.