Posters that warned pregnant women of the dangers of alcohol were forced to be removed in their thousands from the walls of hospitals and GP clinics through Australia because doctors and health groups claimed that the messages and suggestions were absolutely wrong.
The posters were prepared by DrinkWise, which is a “safe drinking” group which allegedly is almost completely funded by alcohol companies, had to remove about 2400 such posters.
The posters had the government approved heading which read “It’s safest not to drink while pregnant”, but the message directly beneath that carried the words as follows: “It’s not known if alcohol is safe to drink when you are pregnant.” This is what was considered to be misleading and inaccurate by doctors and health activists.
The small print was “fundamentally incorrect” since there is no doubt within science that there can be devastating effects on unborn babies by alcohol, said Tony Bartone, president of the AMA, who was among the first to raise concerns with DrinkWise.
“Alcohol is a teratogen, it can cause birth defects, so we couldn’t understand why that messaging was there,” he said.
“I told them about the misleading information and potential outcomes and they responded in a quick and timely manner.”
The posters were designed and produced by DrinkWise and the organization appointed Tonic Health Media to distribute the posters to a “small number of hospitals” and thousands of GP clinics throughout Australia.
An updated DrinkWise poster have already replaced all the controversial ones.
While calling for greater transparency, Dr Bartone raised questions about how DrinkWise was able to spread “misinformation” in the first place.
“Anyone reading the poster should know the origin immediately, which organisation made it and who is funding that organisation.”
The Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) cooperated with Tonic to get down all of the offending posters and at the same time, the AMA worked with DrinkWise.
This incident again shows hat there can be no role for alcohol companies in the public health information space, said Michael Thorn, CEO of FARE.
“The message was utterly wrong. If it hadn’t been for our vigilance, it would have been blasted on the walls of GP surgeries,” he said.
In 2011, the Blewett Review recommended that alcohol pregnancy warning labels should be made mandatory and the DrinkWise campaign is a \n attempt of the alcohol industry to thwart its implementation, said Thorne.
“It’s a textbook example of just how reckless and negligent the alcohol industry is prepared to be, stepping into an area ordinarily the responsibility of government, solely in an effort to stave off the threat of responsible and effective regulation,” he said.
“The warning needs to be on all alcohol products and needs to be blunt and to the point – ‘Do not drink during pregnancy or if you’re thinking of becoming pregnant’.”
(Adapted from SMH.com.au)