Counterpunch: Warning logos don’t change behaviour
Earlier this week journalist Maria Moscaritolo took aim at the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia because, in a submission to a Government inquiry, they repeated concerns that women might abort their babies if made to feel guilty about drinking while pregnant. Here, the WFA says that was just one point in a 21-page report. Punch. Counterpunch. You decide.
Maria Moscaritolo appears to be guilty of the same journalistic shortcut as one of her colleagues at The Advertiser the previous day.
They both based an article – or in Maria’s case a scathing condemnation – around one quote lifted from a long document (the old “taken out of context” argument I know, but in this case true) and in Maria’s words, a “daft and self-serving claim” when the claim is not ours.
While not backing away from the arguments we made in the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Foetal Alcohol, had it been read in full, they would have noted that the issue we raised about pregnancy warning labels affecting decisions by expectant mothers reflects concerns and evidence presented by such sources as the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, the National Health & Medical Research Council, the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy, and researchers published in the British Medical Journal and by the Public Health Agency in Canada.
They would also have noticed that this is one small section of a detailed 21-page submission in which we reflect a broad range of research around the issue of FASD and alcohol consumption in general. Perhaps evaluating that research might have made a good story – albeit a trickier one to write.
As we state in the submission, “WFA supports the current NHMRC advice that if women are pregnant, breastfeeding or intending to conceive, then not drinking is the safest option”. We also openly encourage winemakers to voluntarily use the “pregnant woman” logo and are working with Government to improve the roll-out of this and other consumer information messages.
What we reject are the increasingly shrill cries for more and more cigarette-style warnings on alcohol products, when all the evidence suggests they don’t work or reflect the complex nature of alcohol consumption being beneficial when consumed in moderation (with some notable exceptions such as expectant mothers). Both the World Health Organisation and leading anti-alcohol researchers in Australia commissioned by the Food Standards Authority have shown that warning labels don’t change behaviour.
I know this next statement will bring howls of derision from our critics, but winemakers do care about FASD and the other consequences of inappropriate alcohol use, and regularly commit to support genuine, evidence-based initiatives that will attempt to address the social problem of alcohol abuse.
Unfortunately, initiatives funded by alcohol producers – notably the campaigns run by DrinkWise – invariably get dismissed as tainted or just more industry spin. That would make a good story too.
This is one of a number of initiatives we have undertaken that are designed to provide the information that consumers need to make informed choices. This includes supporting a common and visible “standard drinks” graphic on wine containers, a special information panel on wine casks, and supporting cellar-doors to have information on wine and health available to their customers.
We also remain committed to informing the consumer about the concept of a standard drink and how this links to the National Guidelines for Alcohol Consumption. Industry was promised a significant awareness raising campaign to coincide with the adoption of standard drink information on alcohol beverages but unfortunately this was never delivered.
Obviously industry can’t be expected to do everything in this space and we are keen to see greater Government investment and public health partnership to these voluntary initiatives to deliver a lasting change in the fight against FASD and to improve consumer’s understanding of standard drinks and the healthy drinking guidelines.
But that means we all have our part to play. To be successful we need open and honest analysis and reporting of alcohol and health policy options so that true evidence-based solutions are achieved.
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