Alcohol producers will have to display a warning label on every bottle sold in Australia about the risks of drinking while pregnant.
Australian and New Zealand ministers made the announcement on Thursday following a voluntary scheme in 2011 in which alcohol companies were given a seven-year window to introduce the labels.
About 75 per cent of bottles sold in Australia display some kind of warning, most commonly, a silhouette of a pregnant woman drinking a beverage covered by the well-known crossed-out symbol.
Brewers Association of Australia chief executive Brett Heffernan told The New Daily 75 per cent of bottles was “clearly not good enough” and it was “not surprising” federal and state ministers had made the move to make the pregnancy labelling mandatory with many recalcitrant producers.
Mr Herffernan acknowledged his association’s members – including Carlton & United Breweries, Lion Beer Australia and Coopers Brewery – had been early adopters and 100 per cent compliant with the voluntary labelling regime since 2014.
He told The New Daily the cost to industry was “not particularly expensive” but hoped the government policy would push those who had failed under the voluntary regime rather than hurt the early adopters.
“This has been a case where industry were given destiny in their own hands and it’s disappointing so many have failed to seize the opportunity,”
Food Standards Australia New Zealand will create a uniform label in consultation with the alcohol industry that will include a pictogram and warning statement.
Almost half of Australian women drink at least some alcohol during their pregnancy, a 2015 study revealed.
Researchers from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland compared pregnant women’s alcohol consumption in all four countries for online medical journal BMJ Open and found alcohol use during pregnancy is “prevalent and socially acceptable”.
The study found 40 per cent of Australian women consume alcohol, compared to 56 per cent of New Zealand women, 75 per cent of UK women and 82 per cent of Irish women.
University of Adelaide Professor Sarah Robertson of the Robinson Research Institute of fertility and reproduction told The New Daily alcohol had been clearly identified as a toxin in the environment with adverse affects to pregnancy and reduced fertility in men and women.
Professor Robertson said more research was needed in the area of alcohol and pregnancy, particularly moderate consumption of alcohol.
“We know lots of pregnancies start when people have been exposed to alcohol and the impacts on children would be something they wouldn’t notice.
“We don’t know where that safe line is so the recommendation is no alcohol even if there is a chance of getting pregnant.”
The New Daily sought comment from the Independent Brewers Association.