Make pregnancy guidance on drinks labels compulsory, says Diageo

  • Drinks giant appeals for mandatory warnings
  • Review contradicts previous guidance

Diageo is urging the government to introduce compulsory advice for pregnant women on alcoholic drinks labels, following new guidance from health officials.

In revised guidelines issued on Wednesday, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends women avoid drinking alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy.

If they choose to drink after that time, it should be no more than one or two units once or twice per week.

The guidelines differ from those published with NICE’s draft guidance last year, which said women could drink a small glass of wine daily after the first trimester.

Diageo said mandatory guidance on drinks labels would help avoid confusion for consumers.

Diageo Great Britain managing director, Benet Slay, said: “We have been waiting for NICE to confirm its position. We believe that all alcohol producers should include the new guidance on their products. Now is the time for government to make it a mandatory requirement.”

That could prove costly to smaller drinks makers, but Slay said a voluntary labelling agreement would not work. “If a pregnant woman walks into a shop and sees two bottles of wine, one with a pregnancy message on it and another without, we want to avoid her thinking that one is better for her than the other."

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association declined to comment specifically on the Diageo announcement on Wednesday afternoon. It has been working closely with retailers and members to encourage voluntary guidance on drinks labels.

A government review on alcoholic drinks labelling is due in the autumn.

Pernod Ricard, Diageo's arch-rival, said in 2006 it would print warnings for pregnant women on its drinks sold in the EU. Pernod's home country, France, made warnings compulsory on all drinks earlier the same year.