The well-intentioned motion by Senator Griff on pregnancy labelling fails to recognise that FRSC (Food Regulation Standing Committee) and FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand) bureaucrats delivered a proposal that was not in keeping with the clear direction given to them by Governments.

Mr Andrew Wilsmore, Chief Executive Officer of Alcohol Beverages Australia said today “Instead of a pictogram and warning statement as directed by Ministers, bureaucrats produced a warning label that would cost over $400million to implement, in a significant departure from Australia’s food standards around warning labels.

“Producers have made it very clear that we support mandatory labelling to help increase awareness of FASD. This requires a solution that is proportionate to other mandated food warnings and that is cost-effective to implement.

“On 11 October 2018, Food Forum Ministers agreed ‘that a mandatory labelling standard for pregnancy warning labels on packaged alcoholic beverages should be developed and should include a pictogram and relevant warning statement’.

“It is very clear from this direction that Ministers did not ask for the mandating of colours (black, white and red), the use of signal words, or packaging requirements. They simply tasked FSANZ to develop a pictogram and warning statement to go on label. This is a proposition all beer, wine, spirit and cider producers support.

“Food Forum Ministers re-stated their position on 9 April 2020 and instructed FSANZ to conduct a review based on the ‘unreasonable cost burden to industry’ posed by mandating colours and for the review to ‘consider the colour requirements and signal wording of the pregnancy warning label’.

“The proposed design was the most expensive to implement and we calculated it would impose an additional cost of $400 million* on consumers when the advice** to Ministers from FSANZ and the Department of Health acknowledged that health warning labels on alcohol do not lead to behaviour change.

“Australia’s State/Territory and Federal Ministerial decision to review the label design and wording was a good one, especially as our sector, like so many others, is facing hardship in these uncertain times.”

“Producers now await the revised advice from FSANZ in keeping with the direction of Food Forum Ministers and is keen to partner with Governments to ensure a sensible outcome that will help raise awareness of FASD and be cost-effective for all producers – especially small businesses – and for Australians enjoying a drink.

“The last thing we want is a solution that would be akin to adding an extra door to a car, but require one panel to be painted a separate colour using different equipment”, Mr Wilsmore said.

Media inquiries: Andrew Wilsmore, 0403 570 407

*2008 Pricewaterhouse Coopers Report for FSANZ identifying an average cost of $ 9000 to $10,000 for a major label change

** Decision Regulatory Impact Statement, Food Regulation Secretariat, Department of Health; ANZFA 2001 (now Food Standards Australia New Zealand) Rejection of Application A359 – Requiring Labelling of Alcoholic Beverages with a Warning Statement.

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