Australian, New Zealand ministers vote to make alcohol safety labels mandatory

Alcohol companies will have to put pregnancy warning labels on their products.

The 15 members of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation met on Thursday and voted to make the warnings mandatory.

The Ministry of Health warns there is "no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy" and the effects of FASD are irreversible. A study in July found the effects can even be seen two generations down the line.

Food Safety Minister Damien O'Connor, the only New Zealander who had a vote, believes consumers will see a change within the next couple of years.

"By the end of this year, then two years beyond that should be the absolute deadline, but I think many in the industry will be in a place to do that earlier," he told Newshub.

The message has been voluntary for six years, but Mr O'Connor said more could be done.

"The voluntary regime has worked okay but it's time now to step up and all ministers from both sides of the Tasman agree that we need to take that next step and make it mandatory," he said.

Alcohol Healthwatch director Nicki Jackson agreed with Mr O'Connor, telling The AM Show before the vote the uptake on voluntary labelling had been quite low.

"We don't believe that status quo should continue - the coverage is really low," she said.

"These standards are developed across Australia and New Zealand, and less than half of alcohol products in Australia contain any alcohol-pregnancy labels. It's a bit higher in New Zealand, but the products that our women prefer to drink - RTDs and wine - are not labelled."

The alcohol industry is not in favour of the move and said labelling did not work.

"There is no credible research anywhere that shows that warning labels reduce harmful consumption of alcohol," Alcohol Beverages Council spokesman Nick Leggett told Newshub on Thursday.

Mr O'Connor said it will be difficult, but is ultimately the right move.

"It's quite a big challenge for us all - it's only one part of a project that is obviously aimed at trying to reduce the harm from alcohol for pregnant women."