Pregnancy warnings on alcohol labels

Page last updated: 06 December 2017

Pregnancy warnings labels on alcohol

Pregnancy warning labels were a recommendation from Labelling Logic: Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy (2011) (Labelling Logic). Recommendation 25 of that report was: That a suitably worded warning message about the risks of consuming alcohol while pregnant be mandated on individual containers of alcoholic beverages and at the point of sale for unpackaged alcoholic beverages, as support for ongoing broader community education.

In response to this recommendation, the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (FoFR) (now the Forum) provided the alcohol industry with a two-year period, commencing December 2011, to adopt the voluntary initiative to place pregnancy health warning labels on alcohol products, before regulating such a change.

Evaluation of the action taken by the alcohol industry in Australia and New Zealand in placing pregnancy warnings on alcohol products

An evaluation of the voluntary labelling initiative was undertaken in Australia in 2013 and in New Zealand in 2014.

In June 2014 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.

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.

Second evaluation of the voluntary industry alcohol labelling initiative

The findings of the second evaluation of the voluntary labelling initiative to place pregnancy health warnings on alcohol products was presented to the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum) at its meeting on 24 November 2017.

Australian reports:

New Zealand reports:

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

Forum Ministers asked the Food Regulation Standing Committee to expedite for earliest possible consideration development of a policy options consultations paper including: mandatory versus voluntary application; most appropriate pictogram; and most appropriate and most easy to understand message to discourage drinking during pregnancy.

Decision Regulation Impact Statement for pregnancy warning labels on packaged alcoholic beverages

In October 2018, the Forum noted a Decision Regulation Impact Statement (DRIS) with four options for progressing pregnancy warning labels on packaged alcoholic beverages. The DRIS was prepared by the Food Regulation Standing Committee and took into account stakeholder views provided through a targeted stakeholder consultation in May and June 2018 and further research, modelling and evidence gathering.

The Forum agreed that, based on the evidence, a mandatory labelling standard for pregnancy warning labels on packaged alcoholic beverages should be developed and should include a pictogram and relevant warning statement. The Forum requested Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) develop this mandatory labelling standard as a priority and that the work be completed expeditiously.

The Forum recognised the efforts of a large segment of the sector, including many small businesses, in voluntarily adopting pregnancy labelling. In recognition of these efforts, the Forum called for comprehensive consultation and appropriate transition timelines and stock-in-trade exemptions on new arrangements.

Forum - DRIS - Alcohol Warning Labels on Packaged Alcoholic Beverages - 24-10-2018 (PDF 1268 KB)
Forum - DRIS - Alcohol Warning Labels on Packaged Alcoholic Beverages - 24-10-2018 (Word 1538 KB)

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