“Pregnancy warnings supported, but mandating colours to cost consumers $400M”

Australia’s beer, wine and spirits producers support mandating pregnancy warning labels. The now familiar pictogram of a pregnant woman holding a glass with a line through her silhouette is about to be mandated and updated with a new message that ‘alcohol can cause lifelong harm to your baby’.

“Mandating colours, instead of the existing contrast requirements established under the Food Code, would impose the biggest cost on consumers, without any scientific basis, for no measurable benefit,” Andrew Wilsmore, Chief Executive Officer for Alcohol Beverages Australia, said today.

“This would cost consumers an extra $400 million*, with ongoing high costs due to the more expensive label printing costs. At our industry’s average yearly earnings, this regulatory burden would be the equivalent of close to 6,500 jobs that could otherwise have been created.

“Our voluntary labelling initiative presently covers three out of every four items in a liquor shopper’s basket. By mandating warnings we will ensure that every bottle of wine, beer and spirits carries an important message, supported by industry, to raise awareness of the harms of drinking while pregnant or trying to conceive.

“It is disappointing it has taken so long to get to this point, when 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’ at their meeting on 11 October 2018.

“What should have been a simple exercise was made infinitely more complicated when bureaucrats at FRSC (Food Regulation Standing Committee) and FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand) continued to put forward a proposed design that was not in keeping with the clear direction given to them by Governments.

“In March 2020, common sense prevailed and Food Forum Ministers – federal, state and territory – sent the bureaucrats back to the drawing board after rejecting a proposal that mandated colours and a non-relevant signal word.

“Despite the clear direction given by Food Forum Ministers to ditch the colour version, the bureaucrats just can’t let go of their pet design and it is back again. It is extremely concerning that FRSC and FSANZ bureaucrats have totally ignored Ministers’ direction and submissions made to them which outlined where their proposal incurred substantial and ongoing costs.

“Fortunately Ministers can now insist on the common sense design they and producers supported in March by amending the mandated colour to be in line with Food Code requirements for legibility and contrast, and will be cost-effective to implement.

“Producers remain keen to partner with Governments to ensure a sensible outcome that will help raise awareness of FASD and be cost-effective – especially for small businesses – and for Australians enjoying a drink,” 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

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