Booze warn­ings over­due

Herald Sun - - OPINION -

THE dev­as­ta­tion on un­born lives wrought by al­co­hol is hor­ren­dous. In­no­cent chil­dren born into the world with foetal al­co­hol syn­drome are bur­dened with life­long phys­i­cal and or neu­rode­vel­op­men­tal im­pair­ments.

A lack of pub­lic recog­ni­tion of the ex­tent of the prob­lem is part of the rea­son why foetal al­co­hol syn­drome re­mains at such high lev­els across many com­mu­ni­ties, es­ti­mated to be two to five per cent of all chil­dren.

Foetal Al­co­hol Spec­trum Dis­or­der (FASD) is the lead­ing cause of birth de­fects, de­vel­op­men­tal and learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties world­wide, ac­cord­ing to FASD Aus­tralia.

In Aus­tralia, at­ti­tudes to al­co­hol have tra­di­tion­ally been of­ten un­healthy. Turn­ing the tide in ed­u­ca­tion to pre­vent FASD is cru­cial.

The Her­ald Sun yes­ter­day re­ported that a lack of ac­tion by the al­co­hol in­dus­try to adopt vol­un­tary la­belling had forced health author­i­ties to act. Hav­ing been given seven years to self-reg­u­late, 25 per cent of al­co­holic bot­tles con­tinue to not have warn­ing la­bels about the risks of drink­ing dur­ing preg­nancy. Aus­tralian and New Zealand health min­is­ters have now agreed to im­pose manda­tory la­bels for all al­co­hol prod­ucts. Those warn­ings will in­clude a pic­togram and a warn­ing state­ment de­vel­oped by Food Stan­dards Aus­tralia New Zealand.

The chal­lenge is not met by la­bels alone, though. While the in­ci­dence of FASD oc­curs across the so­cial spec­trum, higher preva­lence is seen in in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties and those at the fringes, in­clud­ing peo­ple in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

Ed­u­ca­tion is key in pre­vent­ing in­no­cent lives be­ing dam­aged by the syn­drome through ig­no­rance, ad­dic­tion or reck­less­ness.

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