Big Alcohol Endangers Pregnant Women
New research has found that Big Alcohol and bodies funded by the alcohol industry are encouraging women to keep using alcohol throughout pregnancy despite scientific evidence stating otherwise.
The alcohol industry and their front groups are ignoring scientific evidence about the harms and dangers associated with alcohol use during pregnancy. They are also publishing false and misleading information and undermining the understanding of risks to get women to keep consuming alcohol while pregnant.
Examples of these tactics are:
- Drinkaware in the UK are publishing information on websites and apps that says “light alcohol use” in pregnancy is safe, or denying that consumption is linked to a baby having foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
- Bacardi acknowledges that alcohol use in pregnancy is “risky”, it also claims that “what is ‘too much’ may vary by individual”, which is contradicting evidence.
- Educ’alcool, an alcohol industry-backed body in Canada, maintains that “[the] risk to the foetus is reduced considerably if you have only one drink every now and then”.
The study findings are published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. The academics analysed information about alcohol and pregnancy issued by 23 alcohol compnaies such as Heineken and Diageo and industry-funded front groups in six countries: Britain, Ireland, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. They then compared that to material published by public health bodies and authorities.
Information published by the industry sources studied often did not mention the need for an alcohol-free pregnancy and instead used language that endorsed continued alcohol consumption. Some ignored, downplayed or sparked confusion about the scientific basis of official advice. The worst case was found through Drinkaware.
The government and four the UK nations’ chief medical officers’ joint view is that women should avoid alcohol completely while they are pregnant.
This study provides further evidence that these organisations pose a potential risk to public health, specifically to the health of pregnant women and the baby, and should have no role in disseminating health information,” said Prof Mark Petticrew of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the lead author of the study as per The Guardian.
Meanwhile, Katherine Severi, chief executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies called for warning labels on alcohol bottles indicating women should not consume alcohol while pregnant.
Alcohol industry is resisting pregnancy warning labels
As reported by The Age, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand has released a draft new label for alcohol bottles, with a graphic showing a silhouette of a pregnant woman drinking and the message: “HEALTH WARNING: Any amount of alcohol can harm your baby”.
However, alcohol lobby groups are pushing hard against this new health warning label, using vague claims that too many labels will confuse consumers and consumers can just “google it” if they want to find more information.
For example, Australian alcohol industry front group DrinkWise proposes a label that has no warning on risks of alcohol during pregnancy and just directs people to a website which itself is funded by the alcohol industry. As mentioned above such websites are what actually sources of confusing and conflicting information.
The real problem is lack of proper, consistent and clear information about alcohol’s terategenic effects, endangering the health of pregnant women and their babies.
As Michael Thorn, the chief executive of Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), states people do not actually search the internet for more information and labels are crucial in communicating risks to consumers.
If approved by the federal government, the new label will be mandatory on all bottles of alcohol with a volume of 200 millilitres or more, with smaller bottles to carry only the silhouette image.