Plans by supermarket giant Tesco to recruit pregnant women as wine testers have been attacked by experts.
Heavy drinking during pregnancy can be dangerous
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.
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
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.
"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
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
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
"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."
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
"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.