Visible health warning welcomed

This past Friday, Ministers of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum for Food Regulation adopted a recommendation by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to introduce mandatory health warning labels for alcohol products in Australia and New Zealand.

ACEM Public Health and Disaster Committee member FACEM Diana Egerton-Warburton said the decision is an important step to protect the health of future generations of children in Australia and New Zealand.

‘It is ACEM’s view that alcohol harm is one of the biggest preventable public health issues in emergency departments and is a leading cause of health and social harms across Australia.

‘There is indisputable evidence that Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder can be prevented by avoiding alcohol use in pregnancy. A clear health warning is critical to public health understanding about the risks of alcohol intake during pregnancy.’

Professor Warburton listed miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, birth defects and developmental problems as potential other risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

The Visible Health Warning campaign conducted in the lead up to Friday’s vote attracted almost 4000 individual supporters as well as the support of more than 180 community, health, medical and research organisations, including ACEM.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand had recommended – based on clear evidence – that the labels be red, black and white.

‘The coloured labels make them more visible. They stand out and they will be noticed. We’re very pleased that this has passed through the Forum,’ Professor Egerton-Warburton said.

‘Given the link between alcohol consumption and increased health risk, it is essential that consumers have access to information on the safe use of alcohol and its potential harms so they can make an informed decision about their consumption levels, especially during pregnancy.

‘Warning labels are an important first step in reducing the harmful effects of alcohol on infants and young people, but we also need to target price, availability and sponsorship and promotion especially in sport.’

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