Australian Grape & Wine (AGW) says it is “deeply disappointed” by Food Standards Australia-New Zealand’s (FSANZ) approval of what it describes as “a flawed, costly and ineffective pregnancy warning label”, and is urging the Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation to reject it immediately.
“This pregnancy warning label is a classic example of bureaucratic over-reach, and is not a good example of science-based decision making” said Tony Battaglene, chief executive of AGW
AGW is a strong supporter of the existing voluntary labelling arrangements and industry initiatives which work in tandem to raise awareness of the dangers of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and have contributed to significant improvements in the rates of women abstaining, or reducing their alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
“Our concerns extend beyond simply the costs to grape and wine businesses, though they will be significant,” Battaglene said.
“Evidence tells us the current initiatives are driving positive cultural change in Australia. If FSANZ was able show how this new label-design would lead to a significant change in drinking behaviour, we would take a different positon. But given they can’t, why are Ministers being asked to consider a design that will be costly to businesses, but achieve very little?”
The costs to Australian wine businesses will be felt most keenly by small, family owned wine businesses in rural and regional Australia.
Most wine businesses have multiple products in their portfolio, with some brands offering consumers almost 100 different wines.
These businesses would need to redesign labels for each of these products, potentially driving up the costs in the tens of thousands of dollars per wine business.
“It’s clear FSANZ had an outcome in mind before it commenced its consultation process. We participated in good faith, but FSANZ has ignored the science and the views of grapegrowers and winemakers, and gone with its pre-conceived ideas.”
“Surely the best approach is to make the existing voluntary label mandatory, and invest further in initiatives to raise awareness about the dangers of FASD,” said Battaglene.
“While this might be a box ticking exercise for FSANZ, it’s a kick in the guts to Australia’s 6,000 grape growers and 2,500 winemakers who are battling the impacts of fires, smoke and drought.
“It’s now up to the Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation to reject this proposal. We urge Ministers to go back to the drawing board and consider a label that will maintain the positive trends in drinking during pregnancy in Australia, while minimising the costs and risks to wine businesses.
“Mandating the current voluntary pregnancy warning label would be a common sense solution and we encourage Ministers to take this approach.”
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