Alcohol labelling falls short - midwife

LISA KNIGHT
Last updated 12:00 10/07/2014

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A Manawatu midwife is not only disappointed alcohol warning labels for pregnant women have not been made compulsory but thinks the industry should take it a step further and include warnings for breastfeeding mothers as well.

The alcohol industry will be allowed two more years to voluntarily warn consumers of the risks of drinking alcohol while pregnant after a decision by trans-Tasman food safety ministers last week.

Midwife Cheryl Benn said there were a lot of conflicting messages on alcohol and pregnancy, and compulsory warning labels would make it much clearer for consumers.

"We have no evidence of what the safe amount of alcohol for any women when they're pregnant is, so it is better to avoid it at all costs," she said.

"The fact that we're starting to label, even though it's not compulsory for the next two years, it's actually a good starting point.

"What would be great is if it was compulsory . . . While it is disappointing it's at least a step in that direction."

Every effort needed to be made to benefit babies, including a warning for breastfeeding women, Benn said.

"Obviously when people are drinking alcohol they do look at the bottle and read them, so hopefully the message will be there," she said.

"I'd actually love to see them put something about breastfeeding on there as well, because a lot of women are confused about drinking alcohol when breastfeeding."

Mamaternity Charitable Trust manager Carolyn Tranter said she was disappointed by the decision.

"Everyone acknowledges alcohol is addictive and has major side-effects, particularly on an unborn child, so it's very disappointing [the labelling] hasn't been made compulsory."

Tranter said warning labels could make many pregnant women think twice before drinking, "although there are some horrific warnings on smoking labels and people still smoke," she said.

While most people knew drinking while pregnant could be dangerous, many were still unaware, Tranter said.

"Before you get pregnant you don't really take notice of all the studies. You don't really give it a second thought until you're pregnant."

Warning labels could give children a better start to life, she said.

"If it can make a difference on one person's choices during pregnancy, then that can affect and help that one baby."

An audit of alcohol labelling last year showed 26 per cent of products carried a pregnancy-related warning, compared with 6 per cent in 2012.

Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams said the industry's voluntary efforts during the past two years had been pathetic and "typical of their delaying tactics to avoid regulatory intervention".

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Williams said effective labelling was proven to raise awareness of the risks of consuming alcohol during pregnancy.

"The rights of these children are being overlooked to protect the profits of the alcohol industry."

- Manawatu Standard

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