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We can all do more to reduce the impact of alcohol use in pregnancy- says Commissioner Borg

Eurocare has held a successful event in the European Parliament earlier this week (Tuesday 17th September).

The event was kindly hosted by MEPs Vincas Paleckis and Radvile Morkunaite-Mikuleniene from Lithuania.

Eurocare was honoured by the presence and presentation of Lithuanian Vice- Minister for Health- Gediminas Cerniauskas.

Every two years in September Eurocare is organising events in the European Parliament to raise awareness among policy and decision makers about the problems of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is the leading known cause of birth defects and developmental disorders in the EU.

Unfortunately, many women are not aware that throughout pregnancy, even at low levels of exposure, alcohol interferes with the normal development and can seriously damage the unborn child. Case studies from across Europe show there is a substantial number of women who continue to drink during pregnancy, ranging from 25% in Spain to 35%-50% in the Netherlands and even higher rates in the UK or Ireland (79%).

This year’s keynote speech was delivered by Commissioner for Health Tonio Borg in which he highlighted the need for continuous efforts to eliminate drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Commissioner Borg reminded the participants that protecting children, young people and the unborn child is one of the priorities of the EU Alcohol Strategy. He went on to list some of the activities that have been carried out in the context of the strategy.

However, he noted that despite all the studies on the effects of alcohol, there is still insufficient information on the incidence and prevalence of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in EU countries.

Commissioner has pointed out several times that one avenue we can explore further is the possible use of adapted health warnings on alcoholic drinks.

France was the first EU country to make it a legal obligation that all alcoholic drinks carry a warning against drinking during pregnancy.

Some alcohol producers have chosen to use the French system of graphic warnings on their products. The United Kingdom's Government went a step further and convinced alcohol producers to include the Chief Medical Officer's advice on labels, warning against drinking "if pregnant or trying to conceive".

Unfortunately, such examples do not yet extend across all EU countries, or across all beverage types and categories. The Commissioner strongly pointed out to the fact that more can be done in the area of health warning labels and the alcohol industry needs to put its house in order.

Commissioner has concluded his speech by saying that the EU has a role to play in the prevention of alcohol- related harm, and the work under the Alcohol Strategy launched in 2006 will continue, with your help, to address the challenges ahead.

Eurocare was delighted by high interest and participation in the event and would like to thank all the participants.

You can view picture gallery from the event

Presentations from the event are available below

Eurocare Library of Health Warning Labels

Previous Eurocare events on alcohol and pregnancy

Risks associated with Prenatal Exposure to Alcohol, Dr Diane Black, European FASD Alliance Brussels 2013--v02--without kids

Measuring the problem in Europe, Dr Lars Møller, World Health Organisation Office for Europe Lars Møller

Research: Dr Simona Pichini, National Institute of Health, Italy Simona Pichini

Prevention: Alcohol Labelling, Dr Pierre-Yves Bello, Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, France Pierre Yves Bello

European campaign for prevention of FASD, Francesco Marini, Local Health Authority of Treviso (and Stefania Bazzo, University of Trieste (Italy) francesco marini