Labels to warn of dangersof drinking: French minister

6th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 5 (AFP) - French Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Thursday called for labels on bottles of alcohol to warn pregnant women of the dangers that drinking could pose for their unborn children.

PARIS, Aug 5 (AFP) - French Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Thursday called for labels on bottles of alcohol to warn pregnant women of the dangers that drinking could pose for their unborn children.

His statements came one day after prosecutors in the northern French city of Lille began an investigation into whether alcohol producers should be held liable for the health problems of children born to mothers who drink.

"I will see to it that there are labels on the bottles," a spokesman for Douste-Blazy quoted the minister as saying.

He also said that from September France's centre-right government would launch a nationwide campaign primarily aimed at pregnant women and adolescents about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.

The Lille enquiry - the first-ever of its kind - was to see whether a judicial file should be opened into a possible charge of "endangering the life of another person, misleading marketing and causing involuntary harm."

"Alcohol producers know the risks that alcohol poses for pregnant women," said Benoit Titran, attorney for the family rights association Esper which initiated the enquiry.

Foetal alcohol syndrome is a pattern of mental and physical defects which develops in some unborn babies when the mother drinks too much alcohol during pregnancy.

Each year, 0.3 percent of the 700,000 babies born in France - or 2,100 babies - show symptoms of foetal alcohol syndrome, according to CAMSP, a medical watchdog association in northern France.

Titran highlighted that while bottles of French wine exported to the United States have labels listing the possible risks, bottles destined for domestic consumption do not have warning labels.

"Why should American consumers have the right to have this information while French consumers do not?" he said.

Reactions to the move were mixed from France's alcohol industry.

Jerome Agostini, the director of the CNIVE association of wine and spirits producers called Douste-Blazy's move "representative of a certain mindset. You open the umbrella, getting zero results, in order to clear your conscience."

Xavier Carreau, head of the French consortium of winemakers and growers, expressed "surprise", saying messages that promoted moderation were more effective than a "health message (which) will only be diluted on a label".

But "Enterprise and Prevention", a group which includes big alcohol makers like Bacardi-Martini, Heineken and Pernod-Ricard expressed support in a statement for the decision to create labels in order to fight foetal alcohol syndrome.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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