FSANZ told to revise pregnancy warning labels

Food Forum Ministers have asked Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ’s) to revise the draft recommendations on pregnancy warning labels on all alcohol products.

According to FSANZ, the Forum requested a review of the draft standard for pregnancy warning labels noting that the proposed model “places an unreasonable cost burden on industry”.

“In undertaking the review, Ministers requested FSANZ to consider the colour requirements of the label and the signal wording. Ministers requested that this review be undertaken quickly and be notified to the Forum within three months,” FSANZ said.

FSANZ wanted to add a mandatory warning label in red, white and black, which many alcohol companies and representative bodies said would create unnecessary additional cost.

“Food Forum Ministers brought the bureaucrats back to reality by rejecting their draft recommendations and instructing FSANZ to go back to the drawing board,” Brewers Association of Australia CEO Brett Heffernan said.

“Australia’s major brewers support the move to mandate pregnancy warning labels. In fact, we publicly recognised the need to mandate in October 2018 when ministers first made the decision. But it must be workable.”

Heffernan said Brewers Association members have embraced pregnancy labelling from the get-go with a pictogram of a pregnant woman holding a glass and a line through her silhouette put on every label produced since 2014.

“Applying three mandated colours, instead of the prevailing contrast requirements consistent with the Food Code, would set an unnecessary and pointless precedent costing punters an extra $400 million, with more ongoing costs to facilitate the reprinting of the more expensive labels,” said Heffernan.

For consumers of big brewing companies such as Carlton United Breweries, Lion and Coopers, Heffernan said one colour could cost consumers around A$30 million.

“It is also clear that FSANZ had strayed a long way from its bureaucratic bailiwick in trying to recast the pregnancy warning as a health warning. Surely the purpose of the pictogram and message is to draw the attention of pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant, therefore, pregnancy warning would be a more focused and relevant option,” he said.

He said that the new colours and health warning signals are “over-reach”, “petty and punitive measures” that lack practical purpose.

In February 2020, Mitchell Taylor, managing director of Taylors Wines said he was disappointed at the FSANZ decision saying the bureaucracy “adds cost and benefits nobody”.


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