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Last Updated: Monday, 22 March, 2004, 15:42 GMT
Tesco wine tasting plans slammed
Heavy drinking during pregnancy can be dangerous
Plans by supermarket giant Tesco to recruit pregnant women as wine testers have been attacked by experts.

Tesco says the women will help it select the best wines because they have a better sense of taste and smell.

But a leading doctor has dismissed the claim saying there is no scientific evidence to support it.

Dr Doris Campbell of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology said it could also encourage women to drink during pregnancy.

Wine tastings

Tesco said its operation - code-named Cot du Rhone - would involve mothers-to-be being asked to join regular wine tastings at stores across the country.

Tesco said the idea came from its expert wine taster Helen McGinn, who is currently pregnant along with three other members of the wine team.

We'll be better equipped than ever to sniff out the best wines for customers
Helen McGinn,
"The four of us have all remarked how more pronounced and more sensitive our sense of taste has become," said Ms McGinn.

"My taste buds seemed to change dramatically in the first three months of pregnancy."

However, experts dismissed the move as a publicity stunt.

"It seems like a publicity stunt to me," said Dr Campbell.

"I know of no evidence that taste is enhanced in that sense during pregnancy and that would be their only argument for that sort of behaviour."

Dr Campbell said her advice to pregnant women would be a commonsense approach to alcohol, with moderate drinking rather than complete avoidance being the key.

But she said it would be a concern if women were tempted to start drinking more heavily after tasting wine again, which for some was very hard to cut down on during pregnancy.

Charity Alcohol Concern agreed that drinking in moderation was allowed during pregnancy.

"If pregnant women are drinking one or two units once or twice a week, the risks are very low and the biggest dangers are for heavy drinkers," said a spokesman.

"But recent research has warned that even small amounts of alcohol in early pregnancy do pose a risk."

He added: "Targeting alcohol at pregnant women does not seem a very sensible way forward, but if they are only tasting it and not drinking it, then it would be difficult to make any strong opposition."

'Super sensitive'

Ms McGinn said having a team of pregnant wine tasters would mean they had an "unrivalled line-up of super-sensitive tasters" to help sniff out the best wines.

"We have some very experienced wine tasters in the team, but with the added bonus of pregnant women's noses and taste buds, we'll be better equipped than ever to sniff out the best wines for customers.

"With alcohol being ruled out during pregnancy, it's great to still enjoy the aromas and flavours of our wines, even if we do have to spit it out at the end," she said.

Tesco said the scheme would start within the next six months.

Pregnancy alcohol limits 'too high'
27 Jan 00  |  Northern Ireland

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