Date: May 24 2012
The alcohol industry is putting ''booze before babies'' by making false and misleading claims to a parliamentary inquiry into fetal alcohol disorders, a publicly-funded research body says.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) has accused the industry of unfounded ''scare-mongering'' in claiming to the inquiry that fetal alcohol warning labels urging women against drinking during pregnancy could lead to anxiety and terminations.
The foundation said its detailed analysis of four alcohol industry bodies' submissions to the House of Representatives committee inquiry into fetal alcohol spectrum disorder has identified ten false or misleading claims about the disorder and effectiveness of measures to prevent it.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is estimated to leave 2600 Australian newborns a year with disabilities ranging from brain and facial defects to behavioural problems.
Two of the industry submissions suggested current scattered and voluntary measures to prevent the disorder were sufficient, FARE chief executive Michael Thorn said.
The brewers, winemakers and distillers were ''so hell bent on putting profit ahead of public health that [they are] prepared to bend or even disregard the truth completely … ''
''The alcohol industry wishes to propagate the myth that it is somehow risky to ensure consumers are appropriately informed of the potential harms from its product,'' Mr Thorn said. ''The truth … is the risk they are really concerned about is to their own bottom line.''
In their submissions, the Winemakers Federation, the Brewers Association, the Distilled Spirits Industry Council and the Australian Wine Research Institute raise a range of negative responses to preventive measures. The industry groups questioned the need and effectiveness of mandatory warning, cited statistics for the disorder which FARE said were outdated or underestimated, argued the industry's voluntary DrinkWise campaign was raising awareness and criticised mandatory labels when, they said, most people drank responsibly ''with few negative consequences''.
The Winemakers Federation said that if the purpose of labelling was to decrease risky alcohol consumption, ''then data from the USA suggests that this purpose will not be met''.
FARE said studies had shown that alcohol consumption by pregnant women in Canada (15 per cent) and the United States (10 per cent), which both had warning labels, was lower than in countries without, like Australia where a government survey showed 19.5 per cent of pregnant women continued drinking.
The Greens health spokesman, Richard Di Natale, said the industry's response was appalling and it was putting profits before reasonable measures to reduce risky drinking.
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