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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
Call for alcohol warning labels
Young Britons are among the heaviest drinkers in Europe
Alcoholic drinks should carry labels warning of the health risks of drinking during pregnancy, say campaigners.

The National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome UK said advice should be printed on bottles of wine, beer, spirits and alcopops.

Drinking during pregnancy can lead to a child developing learning, behavioural and physical disabilities.

And research published this week suggested that no level of alcohol consumption was free of risk.

If you want to be safe, don't drink.
Susan Fleisher
The charity estimates that more than 6,000 children are born with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder each year in the UK.

Susan Fleisher, director of the charity, and mother of an adopted daughter with FAS said: "Is it a coincidence that more and more children are entering our schools with serious learning and behavioural difficulties at the same time as Britain's binge-drinking `ladette" culture becomes more entrenched?

"We don't want to panic women. The chances are most women with a couple of drinks won't hurt their children.

"But we don't know who will be vulnerable. If you want to be safe, don't drink."

Dr Margaret Barrow, of the Leicester Royal Infirmary, who diagnoses FAS, said the full-blown disorder was still rare and the true number of incidences was not known.

Lord Mitchell, a campaigner on the issue, said drinks companies should take up the matter.

"It seems to me that the alcohol industry has a big responsibility and they're building a rod for their own back because it's going to end up like tobacco... they'll have some serious legal issues to face."

In America, cans of Guinness contain a warning telling women not to drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects, but Guinness cans in the UK do not offer such advice, a press conference at the House of Commons was told.

Current Department of Health advice is that women who are pregnant or who are trying to get pregnant should not drink more than one to two units of alcohol per week.

France is in the process of introducing labels on alcohol bottles warning pregnant women of the dangers.

Jim Minton, of the drinks industry representative The Portman Group, told BBC News Online: "In the UK more and more drinks companies are putting alcohol unit information on their drinks packaging which allows consumers to make responsible choices about their drinking.

"Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should seek advice from a medical professional about recommended levels of drinking appropriate to their circumstances."


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