Cancer Council WA has accused the alcohol industry of putting profits before children's health after the Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation voted for a three-month review of the design and wording of the proposed mandatory pregnancy warning label.
Cancer Council WA Alcohol Program Manager, Julia Stafford, expressed disappointment at the decision, saying the outcome showed the influence of the alcohol industry on what is essentially a health policy decision.
"At the heart of the warning labels is preventing the devastating and lifelong harm to unborn babies," Ms Stafford said.
"All children deserve the best start to life, and it is concerning that alcohol industry profits have trumped children's health.
"The alcohol industry is pulling out all the stops before it has to come clean about the health harms from alcohol use, including during pregnancy.
"Mandatory, effective pregnancy warning labels on alcohol products are an important part of raising awareness of the risks associated with alcohol use, yet the alcohol industry doesn't want the community to know about the real dangers associated with its products.
"As consumers, we accept warnings on many products that could pose a health risk, so why should alcohol be any different?"
Ms Stafford said the design put forward by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) was evidence-based, consumer-tested and went through extensive consultation with health groups and industry.
"Health warning labels on alcohol products would present a significant opportunity to help prevent harm from alcohol, including long-term harm," she said.
"For health warning labels to be effective, they must be based on the best available evidence, not alcohol industry opinions.
"Our WA Health Minister, the Hon Roger Cook MLA, was a strong advocate for the health warnings, and it is disappointing that he wasn't supported by some of his counterparts in other jurisdictions.
"At the end of the day, alcohol is a dangerous product, and if you sell a harmful product, then it needs to be labelled as such."
The announcement came on the same day as the WA Health Minister and Treasurer announced a $2.7 million package for the prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). The introduction of effective, evidence-based warning labels will be important to support state-wide FASD prevention.