Pregnancy warnings on alcohol labels

Page last updated: 30 July 2018

Lead by:

Australian Government Department of Health and New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries

Enquiries:

For enquiries on the Labelling Logic: Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy (the Review) Report contact: Assistant Secretary, Drug Strategy Branch - DSB.coordination@health.gov.au.

All other enquires related to pregnancy warnings on alcohol labels should be directed to the Food Regulation Secretariat - foodregulationsecretariat@health.gov.au.

Details:

In its 9 December 2011 response to the Labelling Logic: Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy (the Review) Report, the Legislative and Government Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum) stated its intention to provide the alcohol industry a two-year period to adopt voluntary initiatives to place pregnancy warnings on labels of alcohol products before regulating such a change.

An evaluation was undertaken at the end of the two year period and a report provided to the Forum.

On 27 June 2014 the Forum announced:
Ministers considered the evaluation of the action taken by the alcohol industry in Australia and New Zealand in placing pregnancy warnings on alcohol products. Ministers noted that the overall percentage of products with a pregnancy health warning label was encouraging, in particular the wine, beer and cider industries, but that there is a wide band of variability across product types. In particular Ministers noted and expressed concern with the low uptake in the mixed alcoholic beverages or ready to drink category. In light of these results the Forum agreed to extend the existing trial on voluntary uptake of pregnancy health warnings on alcohol product labels, and to undertake a review in two years. Ministers agreed to continue to work with industry to ensure increased uptake particularly with companies where the uptake is lower such as the ready to drink industry. This approach recognises the work already undertaken by the industry to place warnings on products and also takes into account the longer turn-over of labels in some areas. Work with industry on consistent and effective messaging in this area will also continue, acknowledging that work to inform and target at risk consumers should be part of a broader strategy, including community education and targeted advice to women who are pregnant or planning pregnancy.

On 24 November 2017 the Forum announced:
The findings of the 2017 Australian and New Zealand evaluation of the voluntary labelling initiative to place pregnancy health warnings on alcohol products were considered by the Forum. The methodology for the evaluation undertaken in 2014-13 was used for this evaluation process.

Industry uptake and implementation of the pregnancy health warnings on alcohol products have increased over time. However, there continues to be some product categories where adoption of the pregnancy health warning labels is low.

The Forum asked FRSC to expedite the development of policy options. A consultation document has been developed that includes: mandatory versus voluntary application; most appropriate pictogram; and most appropriate and most easy to understand message to discourage drinking during pregnancy.

Identified experts in Australia and New Zealand were invited to make evidence-based submissions by 14 June 2018. The submissions are being analysed and will be used to prepare a Decision Regulation Impact Statement to identify a preferred policy option to recommend to the Forum in the second half of 2018.
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