The alcohol industry has been given a 12-month extension but will have to ensure pregnancy health warning labels are placed on all bottles and cans within three years.
Australian and New Zealand ministers on Friday granted beverage makers an extra year for the transition with the labels to say “pregnancy warning” rather than “health warning” as initially proposed.
Government minister Richard Colbeck said the decision would help protect pregnant women and infants.
The Morrison government suggested removing colour requirements for the label after the Brewers Association of Australia said it would cost at least $400m to implement.
Australian and NZ ministers first agreed in 2018 to make pregnancy warning labels on all alcohol products mandatory.
The alcohol industry has applied pregnancy warning labels on a voluntary basis since late 2011.
Ahead of the meeting, brewers association chief executive Brett Heffernan reiterated the organisation’s support for the labels.
“We want mandatory labels, and are prepared for the additional costs imposed,” he said.
“But we don’t support mandatory colours that pose significant and unreasonable additional costs for all consumers of alcohol beverages and producers.”
The Australian Medical Association welcomed Friday’s decision and argued it prioritised the health of families over the profit margins of the alcohol industry.
The association president, Dr Tony Bartone, said the AMA had been advocating for a clear label on alcohol products for many years.
“Warning people about the potential harms of alcohol cannot be left in the hands of an industry motivated by increasing its sales and profits,” Bartone said.
“The approved black, white and red label gives consumers the best chance of being informed of the potential harms of consuming alcohol during pregnancy, compared to the watered down version that was preferred by alcohol industry groups.”
The AMA said drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a range of harmful health conditions including foetal alcohol spectrum disorder – the leading cause of preventable intellectual disability in Australia.