The Australian and New Zealand governments advise women not to consume alcohol during pregnancy. Exposure of the fetus to alcohol can cause a range of physical, cognitive, behavioural and neurodevelopmental disabilities, collectively known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). FASD is preventable by avoiding alcohol consumption during pregnancy. However, available data show that approximately 25% of women in Australia and 20% of women in New Zealand continue to consume alcohol while pregnant.
In Australia and New Zealand, FASD is listed as a priority in the National Alcohol Strategy 2019-2028 and the National Drug Policy 2015-2020, respectively. Actions aimed at FASD prevention, diagnosis and management, support and evidence are in place in both countries and include such initiatives as public education campaigns about the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy and FASD, health promotion resources, training packages for health professionals, tools for alcohol screening and intervention guidelines.
Evidence demonstrates pregnancy warning labels on packaged alcoholic beverages can raise awareness of the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy and prompt discussion of these risks. Evidence from alcohol warnings and tobacco warning labels confirms that the label as part of a suite of measures can contribute to behaviour change. Therefore, when combined with other public health initiatives, pregnancy warning labels can contribute to increased awareness of the risks of drinking alcohol while pregnant and encourage behaviour change. It can also contribute to the development of social norms to support this behaviour change. These will ultimately reduce the prevalence and/or severity of FASD.
In October 2018, Forum ministers requested Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) consider mandatory pregnancy warning labelling on packaged alcoholic beverages. Ministers provided FSANZ with a Decision Regulation Impact Statement as policy advice. In response, FSANZ prepared this document - Proposal P1050.