Pregnancy warning labels required on alcoholic drinks

News article

01 August 2023

Packaged alcoholic drinks produced from today will need to carry a warning label that alcohol can cause harm to unborn babies.

“New Zealand Food Safety wants to support pregnant people to be able to make the right health choice for themselves and their babies,” said New Zealand Food Safety deputy-director general Vincent Arbuckle.

“Pregnant people and those supporting them need to be aware of the risks that alcohol presents for their unborn child, and the potentially life-changing consequences drinking while pregnant can have.”

Food Standards Australia New Zealand developed the new labelling requirement, which will be monitored in New Zealand by New Zealand Food Safety. Manatū Hauora/the Ministry of Health supports the new requirement.

Manatū Hauora Deputy Director of Public Health Dr Harriette Carr says: “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) can have a major impact on someone’s quality of life but it’s completely preventable.”

Each year, between 1800 and 3000 babies are born with FASD in New Zealand, which can result in heart defects, behavioural problems, and intellectual disability. There is no cure for FASD.

“Warning labels on alcohol can support increasing public awareness and understanding of risks of drinking alcohol while pregnant,” Dr Carr says.

The new warning label is required on any packaged drink for retail sale that contains more than 1.15% alc/vol.

“The mandatory warning label is just one way to convey the message about the risk to unborn children from consuming alcohol while pregnant,” said Mr Arbuckle.

“The label supports advice from doctors, midwives, Manatū Hauora, and many other groups that there is no safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed while pregnant. Drinking alcohol while pregnant can have lifelong consequences for unborn babies."

The date when the labels become mandatory, 1 August 2023, was announced in 2020. Many businesses have chosen to add the warning labels to their products well in advance of this date, so consumers may be accustomed to seeing them on alcoholic drinks already.

Alcoholic beverages packaged and labelled before the transition period ends on 31 July 2023 can be sold after the transition period without a pregnancy warning label.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand has detailed requirements and examples of the warning label for businesses on its website.

Anyone who is pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, should not drink any alcohol. They should talk to their doctor or midwife if they have any questions about keeping their baby healthy while pregnant. You can also contact the Alcohol Drug Helpline for free, confidential information and support via their website, on 0800 787 797 or free text 8681.

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