Friday, December 2, 2011

Wine labels and health warnings

I know it is a victory for commonsense that the government has decided not to require specific warning messages on alcohol labels. Winemakers Federation of Australia head, Stephen Strachan, said ‘this was a sensible, considered and evidence-based response to the recommendations of the Blewitt Review.’ The wine industry has demonstrated a strong commitment to addressing alcohol abuse and its willingness to expand coverage of its existing voluntary commitment to have an on-label message warning against drinking while pregnant. Consistently with this, the Winemakers Federation is encouraging winemakers to use the ‘pregnant lady’ pictogram on labels.

I am well aware that my views on this will not be welcome in certain quarters, but it’s a strange world in which the onus is on wine producers to demonstrate a negative. As I understand the present weight of medical evidence, there is nothing to show that drinking a glass of wine a day by a healthy mother-to-be on a balanced diet (and, above all else, not smoking) constitutes a measurable adverse impact on the health of the embryo and, in due course, the newly born baby. But that is not enough: because it is impossible to prove it is risk-free, it seems the industry has to agree that there is a risk to the unborn baby, even though the risk cannot be quantified.

1 comment:

Ian Hawkes said...

I agree with what you are saying. If the Australian wine industry is (as you say) already committed to addressing alcohol abuse, then specific warning messages on wine bottles, for unquantifiable risks of moderate drinking to an unborn child, does seem nonsensical.

The debate in the UK on this issue is on-going. I know that back in 2010, drinks companies snubbed government calls to put health messages and warnings to pregnant women on their bottles. It was part of attempts here in UK to highlight very real dangers of binge drinking.

I France there are health warnings directed at pregnant women on all alcoholic drinks.

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