Pregnancy warnings a 'no-brainer'
1 November 2018
Brewers Association of Australia
November/December 2018 Edition
WHY did so many in industry fail to heed the writing on the wall?
After six years of voluntary pregnancy labelling and two government surveys to measure uptake, the best the alcohol industry could muster was 75% compliance.
Clearly, that's nowhere near good enough. Governments expected that all labels would carry the warnings... not some or even most, but all.
So it was no surprise to anyone that the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation decided to mandate pregnancy warning labelling for all packaged alcohol products at its October meeting.
Australia's major brewers – Carlton & United Breweries, Lion Beer Australia and Coopers Brewery – have been 100% compliant since 2014, voluntarily applying the warning pictogram across every product they produce.
A voluntary system is an opportunity for industry to demonstrate that it is responsible and responsive. It places your destiny in your own hands. It also places you on notice, having been handed enough rope to hang yourself.
Six years represents an awful lot of rope.
Whether recalcitrant or ignorant, failure to place the warnings on labels is not only unacceptable and a blight on the industry's social license, but comes with ramifications.
The noose of a mandatory regime is now tightening. An eleventh-hour reprieve could have been granted had industry got its act together. Even this was too much effort for some.
Now, as the floor falls away, the precedent of mandating regulation has all twisting in the wind. And, of course, the question of what's next looms large with who-knows-what coming with the inevitable next wave of regulation.
Meanwhile, DrinkWise Australia research shows that 74% of women aged 18-40 are aware of the warnings (including 89% of women aged 18-24 and 80% of those aged 25-30), and 82% of all women aged 18-40 comprehend the meaning of the current pictogram warnings.
By mandating the existing warning label graphics, governments can ensure that those who have failed to comply to date are dragged into the fold, while recognising that those who have done the right thing should not be penalised by having to change all of their labels a second time.
A new regime that varies from the existing labelling would, perversely, reward recalcitrance.
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