1 in 3 women are drinking while pregnant or breastfeeding, prompting health experts to renew calls for health advisory labels on all alcohol products.

An Alcohol Education & Rehabilitation Foundation survey released this week says the labels would provide an instant reminder of the risks to the health of mothers and babies.

“These labels would better inform consumers and help prevent harms, such as fetal alcohol syndrome,” it added. “The consumption of alcohol during pregnancy can contribute to miscarriage, prematurity, small babies who are more prone to illness, slow growth and development or even still-birth. “At the moment, there is more information on a carton of milk than on a bottle of alcohol. People have the right to know what they are drinking and how it can impact their health and their baby’s health, so that they can make more informed decisions about the drinks they purchase and consume,” said John Rogerson, CEO of the Australian Drug Foundation.

The survey showed that expectant or new mothers have an awareness of the dangers alcohol poses to their babies, however health labels would provide an instant reminder of the risks. “Health labels can play a role in influencing consumer behaviour because they target people at that critical point of decision-making, in this case when they buy alcohol and when they drink it,” said Rogerson.

At least 43 countries already require some form of on-product labelling, with 14 of these having mandatory health labels primarily around alcohol use and pregnancy.

Australian alcohol companies aren’t required to list ingredients on their products or display labels about the associated risk of disease or illness.

“There is no reason why alcohol, which is inherently harmful, is subject to less regulation in this regard than a carton of milk,” said Todd Harper, CEO of VicHealth.

“The community wants the Government to make health information and labels mandatory rather than a voluntary system implemented by the alcohol industry.”

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