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On June 5, 2013, Pernod Ricard, the company that produces brands such as Absolut and Chivas Royal, held the “third edition” of its Responsib’all Day where its 18,800 employees engaged in activities related to promoting responsible drinking.

The company announced that it planned to expand its already voluntary program of including no alcohol during pregnancy warning labels from Europe to the rest of the world.

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Warning labels are being included as part of the company’s overall social responsibility commitments which include:

1. Reducing under-age drinking
2. Strengthening and expanding marketing codes of practice
3. Providing consumer information and developing responsible product innovation
4. Reducing drinking and driving
5. Enlisting the support of retailers to reduce harmful drinking

Alcohol warning labels are a strategy that have been used in several countries and are often proposed by FASD advocacy groups as one way to prevent FASD by encouraging women to abstain from alcohol consumption during pregnancy.  Several jurisdictions, including the United States, France, Russia, South Africa, and the Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada, have regulations requiring warning labels related to drinking during pregnancy and/or other risks. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom have chosen to work with industry to encourage the voluntary placement of consumer information and health warning labels (such as with Pernod Ricard).

While the idea of alcohol warning labels often receives popular support and is frequently supported by the alcohol industry, one of the main arguments against implementing mandatory alcohol warning labels is that evidence for their effectiveness in changing drinking practices is not particularly strong.

When it comes to pregnancy, the evidence suggests that warning labels seem to have the most influence on ‘low-risk’ drinkers and little to no effect on the those date who drink heavily or binge drink during pregnancy.

It is possible, however, that alcohol warning labels could have a role in shifting social norms around acceptable drinking practices and encourage conversations about alcohol use more generally.

For more on the topic of warning labels, see previous posts:

Further Reading

Caprara, D., Soldin, O., & Koren, G. (2004). To label or not to label: the pros and cons of alcohol warning labels in pregnancy. Journal of FAS International, e:9, 1-3.

Thomas, G.T., Gonneau, G., Poole, N., and Cook, J. (forthcoming). The effectiveness of alcohol warning labels in the prevention of FASD: A brief review. The International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research.

Wilkinson, C., & Room, R. (2009). Warnings on alcohol containers and advertisements: international experience and evidence on effects. Drug And Alcohol Review, 28(4), 426-435.