Alcohol beverage makers must label their products with warning labels relating to the risks of drinking during pregnancy following an agreement by ministers.

The decision was made at the Australia New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation in Adelaide last week.

Brewers Association of Australia CEO Brett Heffernan said that while it was disappointing that mandating pregnancy labelling for all packaged alcohol products was necessary, the decision was a “no-brainer”.

“We fully expected this outcome,” Heffernan said. “Our members – Carlton & United Breweries, Lion Beer Australia and Coopers Brewery – have been 100% compliant with the voluntarily labelling regime since 2014, applying the warning pictogram across every product they produce.

“We are perplexed as to why others in the industry failed to heed the writing on the wall since 2012. The three major brewers got the job done, across hundreds of product labels, in just two years.

“After six years of voluntary pregnancy labelling and two federal government surveys to measure uptake, the best the alcohol industry could muster was 75% compliance. Clearly, that’s nowhere near good enough.

“Governments expected that industry would bear the warnings on all products… not just some or even most. In the end, Federal and State Ministers have been left with no choice but to mandate pregnancy warning labels.

“We will work with all governments and stakeholders to ensure the existing DrinkWise Australia warning pictogram warnings, which are demonstrably well-recognised and understood, are adopted as the mandatory label.”

The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) CEO Terry Slevin said he welcomed the announcement.

“The ministers who have agreed to this reform should be congratulated with particular recognition to WA Health minister Roger Cook who initiated this action.”

“It’s important to provide Australian women who are pregnant, or considering pregnancy, with clear and accurate advice about the risks of drinking during pregnancy, with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) being the most significant.

“The new mandatory labels will ensure that all alcohol producers must comply with the system, and will give consumers a more effective warning of the risks of drinking alcohol.

“The next logical step for alcohol warning labels is for Australia to follow Ireland’s lead and introduce mandatory labels which warn of the risks associated between drinking alcohol and developing cancer,” Slevin said.

The PHAA has also urged the Western Australian Government to set a minimum floor price on alcohol following the release of a new report which demonstrated how a minimum price would reduce alcohol harms in the community.

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