Doctors demand better pregnancy warning labels on alcohol bottles

Doctors are calling on the Government to resist pressure from the alcohol industry and make pregnancy warning labels compulsory and standard.

On July 17, Ministers in Australia and New Zealand will vote on whether warning labels on bottles should change.

Women who drink while pregnant are more likely to give birth to babies who are smaller, premature, and have developmental, behavioural or physical problems.

Fetal alcohol syndrome, otherwise known as an 'invisible disability', affects an estimated 1800 newborns every year.

While there are already warning labels on drinks, advocates say they don't work.

"This is a beverage that causes brain damage in unborn babies," Alcohol Health Watch spokesperson Christine Rogan says.

Rogan says hazardous drinking levels in young women are rising, "so it's even more important that we have a clear, concise, effective label on that bottle."

Food Safety Minister Damien O'Connor will join Australian Ministers to vote on whether the new label should be compulsory on beer, wine and spirits.

"A nice vivid visible label on that container is kind of like your last reminder, 'don't do this please'," says Royal Australasian College of Physicians President Dr George Laking.

Proposed pregnancy warning label for alcohol bottles.
Proposed pregnancy warning label for alcohol bottles. Photo credit: Newshub

The Alcohol Beverages Council supports the label, but doesn't want the added cost of using the colour red. 

It claims the red text will cost manufacturers an extra $252 million, but doctors say that figure pales in comparison to the social cost of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Laking says drinking during pregnancy is costing the country $500 million per year.