Australia: Big Alcohol Claims Pregnancy Warning Too Costly
The newest strategy of Big Alcohol against pregnancy warnings in Australia is claims that the label is too costly.
Since Food Standard Australia and New Zealand released a draft label for alcohol bottles with pregnancy warnings, the alcohol industry has been fighting hard against it. One of their initial claims was that “too many labels” will “confuse” consumers. They had previously suggested a label which directed consumers to an alcohol industry-funded website. These websites are actually what confuses consumers, as they do not mention the need to be alcohol-free during pregnancy and before conception, and instead are using language that endorsed continued alcohol consumption. Some of these websites ignored, downplayed or sparked confusion about the scientific basis of official advice.
From too much information to too high costs
Since Big Alcohol’s vague claims about “too much information” has not been succesful in swaying opinion, the alcohol industry’s newest tactic is to claim that pregnancy warnings are going to cost too much.
The proposed label has a graphic showing a silhouette of a pregnant woman consuming alcohol and red text that says: “Health warning: any amount of alcohol can harm your baby.”
The Big Alcohol front group Alcohol Beverages Australia (ABA) says, manufacturers should be able to keep using the DrinkWise label – which has the silhouette but no written warning – instead directing consumers to a website funded by the alcohol industry.
The main reasoning of the alcohol industry is that it will cost manufacturers $600 million to redesign their products, and the cost will have to be covered from the consumers through higher pricing.
However, this reasoning is only to the benefit of Big Alcohol. As the the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) pointed out, it took Carlton & United Breweries only a week to change its label to capitalise on the result of the AFL grand final with its Carlton Draught Richmond 2019 AFL Premiership cans.
…when they’ve got a commercial imperative to do it, they can move very quickly,” said Trish Hepworth, FARE’s policy director, as per, The Sydney Morning Herald.
Many Australian women are unaware about alcohol’s risks during pregnancy
ABA claims that Australian communities are already aware of the risks of alcohol to the unborn child. However, data contradicts this claim. In 2016, 34.7% of all pregnant women consumed alcohol, including 25.2% who kept using alcohol even when they knew they were pregnant, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Further as Ms. Hepworth says, the labels are not only about pregnant women but also about societal pressure on pregnant women to continue alcohol use. Australian society needs to be aware that pregnant women should not consume alcohol and should not pressure them to do so.
Currently a senate inquiry is examining the effectiveness of approaches to prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).