Stronger warning labels introduced for alcohol
Published : Sep 2, 2016 - 17:56
Updated : Sep 2, 2016 - 17:57
All alcoholic beverages available for sale in South Korea will have stronger warning labels on their containers starting Saturday, especially on the dangers of alcohol-related birth defects, according to the nation’s Health Ministry.

It is the first time since 1995 that such warning labels are being revised to emphasize the importance of avoiding alcohol during pregnancy. Previously, the government warning labels -- bottlers were able to choose among three versions -- warned about liver cancer and other liver diseases, as well as the danger of alcohol-related injuries, such as traffic accidents.

Only one out of the three versions had a line on the dangers of drinking during pregnancy, which may lead to birth defects, premature birth and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. 
All alcoholic beverages available for sale in South Korea will have stronger warning labels on their containers starting Saturday. (The Korea Herald)

The revised warning labels now all contain a line about health risks that are involved with drinking during pregnancy, including birth defects. All bottlers are required to use one of the three versions of the labels on their products.

The labels are being introduced as the National Health Promotion Act was revised in July to better inform the public on the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The Health Ministry made the decision after consulting with public health professionals, psychiatrists and consumer organizations.

“Throughout this consulting process we learned that a lot of people are ill-informed about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy,” an official from the ministry said. “Many think a single glass won’t affect one’s pregnancy. We advise all pregnant women to abstain from the intake of alcohol.”

The number of South Korean babies with birth defects increased significantly since the early 1990s. Between 1993 and 1994, 3.4 per every 100 newborns were born with birth defects in the nation’s seven metropolitan cities. From 2009-2010, however, 5.5 per every 100 babies were born with congenital anomalies. 

While drinking during pregnancy may be one of the reasons behind the statistics, a recent study by Inha University showed that the increase of babies with birth defects is likely associated with traffic-related air pollutants and endocrine disruptors in Korea.

A 2013 study by Stanford University School of Medicine also found an association between traffic-related air pollutants and malformations of the brain and spine of newborns in California.

By Claire Lee (