• A mandatory warning pictogram on alcohol will aim to stop pregnant women from drinking. (AAP)Source: AAP
A new mandatory label will read "PREGNANCY WARNING: Alcohol can cause lifelong harm to your baby" in red and black ink.
Hannah Ryan

22 Jul 2020 - 5:07 PM  UPDATED 22 Jul 2020 - 5:07 PM

Alcohol bottles will display a prominent warning about the dangers of drinking while pregnant, after Australia's states and territories agreed on a new proposal.

The new mandatory label will read "PREGNANCY WARNING: Alcohol can cause lifelong harm to your baby". "PREGNANCY WARNING" will be in red ink. Alcohol manufacturers have three years to introduce the labels, which were proposed by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand.

The Australian state, territory and Commonwealth and New Zealand ministers responsible for food agreed on the regulation at a meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation last Friday. 

June Oscar, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner, had advocated for the change and urged the ministerial forum to endorse the label.

The ABC reported that Ms Oscar sent a letter to the forum, co-signed by 52 members of the Close the Gap campaign, calling the label an "easy step" to protect unborn children from foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

"It is our responsibility as a nation to ensure that all of our citizens have a right to know of these harms," Ms Oscar told the ABC.

"FASD is 100 per cent preventable. People in our community have a right to know."

The alcohol industry opposed the changes, arguing they would be too expensive to implement. 

Senator Richard Colbeck, who has portfolio responsibility for food regulation, said in a statement that the Australian government was "strongly committed" to mandatory pregnancy warning labels on alcoholic beverages.

The warnings were "to inform pregnant women and the broader community of the advice for pregnant women to not consume alcohol in order to prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD),” he said.

Australia has had a voluntary pregnancy warning label scheme for almost a decade, but Food Standards Australia and New Zealand found it was ineffective.

Australians have some of the highest rates of drinking during pregnancy in the world. 

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