A recent study suggests that the alcohol industry and bodies funded by them are misleading pregnant women. To retain market share, the sector is encouraging would-be-mothers to continue with the consumption of alcohol even during their pregnancy.
By publishing incorrect and ambiguous information about the risks involved, alcohol companies are encouraging pregnant women to consume alcohol, jeopardizing their unborns babies' lives. Since young women, who form a good chunk of their market share turn away from them, the alcohol industry is ignoring the scientific evidence and nudging mothers-to-be into drinking. They say “light drinking” is safe in pregnancy, and they outrightly deny the scientific evidence against the danger of alcohol for the fetus’s health.
The study found sources like the rum producer Bacardi, which acknowledges that drinking in pregnancy is "risky," but also asserts that "what is ‘too much' may vary by individual," and contradicts existing evidence.
Others do not state the risks, including the child being small for its gestational age. For example, Educ’alcool, an industry-backed body in Canada, maintains that “[the] risk to the fetus is reduced considerably if you have only one drink every now and then.”
In the process of analysis, they studied information from websites of 23 alcohol industry companies such as Heineken and Diageo and industry-funded bodies like Drinkaware [UK] and DrinkWise [Australia]. They considered six countries - Britain, Ireland, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and 19 public health organizations like Health.gov and NHS Choices. Their findings are published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
Prof. Mark Petticrew of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the lead author, said: "Across alcohol industry-funded organizations there appears to be a consistent strategy to the delivery of information on alcohol consumption and pregnancy. One possible reason is that women are a crucial part of the alcohol market. Pregnancy, therefore, may represent a significant commercial threat to the alcohol industry.”
The study distinctly proves that with their vague information, these organizations pose a probable risk to public health, precisely to the health of pregnant women and their babies. Their dubious information states how alcohol crosses the placenta, but then it also mentions that it depends on the mother’s metabolism and nutrition. In approximately nine pages of information on pregnancy, breastfeeding, fertility, and fetal alcohol syndrome, Drinkware states the risks only in the last four sections.
Prof. Sir Ian Gilmore, the chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, claimed 4 out of 10 women fall prey to the misleading information, and they continue with its consumption, which increases the chances of alcohol-related birth defects.
Katherine Severi, chief executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, says that the alcohol industry are experts in selling alcohol, and they are not doctors. The information vacuum created by them is truly alarming. She urges alcohol companies to label all their alcoholic products with a warning against drinking during pregnancy and has resquested more funding for awareness campaigns.