The new mandatory pregnancy warning labels will force cellar doors to close and cost the Australian wine industry $400 million, according to Australian Grape & Wine.
“Australian Grape & Wine has consistently supported the introduction of mandatory pregnancy warning labels,” the AGW says in a statement.
“However, we are deeply disappointed at the decision of Food Forum Ministers to approve a flawed label that will cost industry and consumers $400 million.
“In requiring the warning label to carry specific colours – rather than simply mandating legibility and contrast standards – Food Forum Ministers have imposed significant costs on winemakers for no measurable public health benefit.
Every other warning label in the Food Standards Code, such as those for allergens, require contrasting colours only.
“Australia’s winemakers are hurting after a summer of drought, fire and smoke taint, followed by months of trading restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Many winemakers will not come back – and this decision will result in even more cellar doors closing permanently and wine industry jobs lost.”
AGW says these losses will be felt most acutely by small businesses across regional Australia.
“Despite the leadership shown by the Commonwealth – supported by NSW, Queensland and SA, who all voted for the equally effective but much cheaper contrast option – other jurisdictions chose an option that they know will hurt small businesses already doing it tough,” AGW says.
“In particular, the Governments of Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania must explain their decision to the large number of winemakers, their families and their employees in their states.
“Ultimately, this exercise has been driven by ideologically driven, powerful and well-funded anti-alcohol groups with no regard for the people and communities of rural and regional Australia that depend on a thriving Australian wine industry.”
Andrew Wilsmore, CEO of Alcohol Beverages Australia, said he was pleased that the industry’s voluntary labelling initiative, instituted in 2014 and now in almost universal usage, will be strengthened and made mandatory.
“Our pictogram of a pregnant woman holding a glass with a line through her silhouette is familiar sight to many Australians, and we support the evolution and wider implementation of the design,” he says.
“But we’re extremely disappointed that some Ministers have chosen to ignore the voices of thousands of small brewers, winemakers and distillers across the country by deviating from the usual requirements for contrast colours in favour of a strict red-black-white colour scheme that will cost producers hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
“Even poison labels don’t have to meet those requirements.”
Mr Wilsmore said that many small producers would be faced with set-up costs of close to $100,000 to pay for the initiative, which when combined with the ongoing devastating impacts of Covid-19 would push some them over the brink and out of business.
“Larger producers will also take a big hit, with one-off costs equivalent to the annual salaries of close to 6,500 employees.
“Mandatory pregnancy labelling is a positive step forward, but the same outcome of a highly visible warning could have been achieved at far less cost, and this couldn’t have come at a worse possible time for producers.
“On behalf of Australia’s award-winning beer, wine and spirit producers we commend the Commonwealth, NSW, Queensland and South Australia for moving an amendment to provide for an impactful yet affordable contrast label similar to all other food and beverage warnings.
“It is deeply disappointing that this sensible and balanced proposal did not enjoy the support of the other States and Territories.”