The New Zealand Ministry for Food Safety has today announced that pregnancy warning labels on alcohol will become mandatory. Previously the pregnancy warnings on alcohol have been voluntary, but the recent decision made at the Australia New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation will regulate the issue.

“While the alcohol industry has been voluntarily including warnings on some products for the past six years there is no consistency in the type, colour, size and design, reducing the effectiveness of the message,” said Damien O’Connor, Minister for Food Safety in New Zealand. “There has been strong and sound support from a range of groups calling for mandatory labelling, and I’m pleased today we were able to take this step.”

Food Standards Australia New Zealand, the countries bi-national food standards setting agency, will now develop an appropriate standard to bring back to the Forum for approval.

The announcement comes after the latest Otago University research findings that show the harm of drinking during pregnancy were published.

“These risks are well documented and accepted by the alcohol industry, the vast majority of New Zealanders, and Government,” said New Zealand Alcohol Beverage Council executive director Nick Leggett.

A comprehensive top-to-bottom government strategy on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder was adopted two years ago and engaged GPs, midwives and health services that interact with women during pregnancy. The strategy acknowledges the issues and the risks and has been integrated at all levels to educate the public.

Leggett thinks that big gains have been made in awareness among women, particularly those aged 18 to 24, who data suggests have 100 percent awareness and agree with the statement that if they were pregnant or thought they were pregnant would cease consuming alcohol.

“NZABC is supportive of any, and all government programmes that give pregnant women information to make good decisions about the health of their unborn child and that encourage all New Zealanders to recognise the risks and be supportive of pregnant women who are rightly making the decision not to consume alcohol when pregnant.”