Babies and Drinks Donít Mix

by Ann Samuel on  March 20, 2007 at 3:11 PM Child Health News   - G J E 4
Babies and Drinks Donít Mix
It's a strict no-no from the UK government this time. Beer, wine and spirits bottles will now be marked with a warning label to expecting mothers and women trying to conceive.

The decision follows fears over unusually large number of women binge-drinking even while pregnant. Health officials warn of subsequent risks such as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) characterized by mental retardation, among others.

There have been protests from the liquor lobby that say that the government is sending out mixed signals.

As of now, there are no clear official guidelines like that of the US, where abstinence from drinks while pregnant, is compulsory. In the UK the Department of Health's own official health advice to expectant mothers allows up to two units a day - the equivalent of a single glass of wine - once or twice a week.

The drinks industry feels the latest warning labels will cause unnecessary panic and confusion in pregnant mothers who are occasional drinkers.

A spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association says that though they are working constructively with the government on the development, the drinks industry is "skeptical that shoving labels on bottles is the best way of doing it."

Caroline Flint, the public health minister has warned that while cigarette-packet style warning labels for alcohol will be voluntary initially, if the drinks industry ignores them, the government will consider legislating.

It is unclear how many children suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, as brain damage can be related to a number of disorders. But the World Health Organization estimate one in 100 babies suffers mild effects, while one to three per 1000 have more severe retardation.

Susan Fleisher of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which has lobbied the Department of Health for a tougher line on alcohol during pregnancy, praised the new wording: 'Avoid alcohol if you are pregnant or trying to conceive', as gentle, yet effective.

Lobbyists like Fleisher are pushing for a total ban on drinking by pregnant women.

Source: Medindia

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