Publication Date
Published by / Citation
Pettigrew, S., Davies, T., O’brien, P., Sträuli, B., Petticrew, | Mark, & Bowden, J. (2024). The absence of mandatory pregnancy warning labels in online alcohol purchasing contexts. Drug and Alcohol Review.
Original Language



The absence of mandatory pregnancy warning labels in online alcohol purchasing contexts

Introduction: As people increasingly migrate to online shopping platforms, hard-won improvements in requirements for consumer information provision at the point of sale are being eroded. An example is the alcohol pregnancy warning label for packaged alcoholic beverages that has been recently introduced in Australia and New Zealand. This study sought to assess the extent to which the pregnancy warning was visible at the online point of sale when the requirement became mandatory in August 2023.

Method: Data for alcohol products sold on the websites of the two largest alcohol retailers in Australia were web-scraped from 1 to 3 August 2023. The captured data for 8343 alcoholic beverages were inspected to determine whether the pregnancy warning was visible.

Results: Virtually no products (0.1%) had the mandatory warning visible on the main sales page, and only 7% enabled visibility of the warning via optional product image rotation functionality.

Discussion & Conclusions: The almost complete absence of the mandatory pregnancy warnings on the main product pages of major alcohol retailers' websites highlights the regulatory problems posed by the emerging shift to online shopping. The very low prevalence of visible pregnancy warnings is likely to be an overestimate of the extent to which consumers would be exposed to warnings due to images being counted as being present regardless of their quality or readability. New regulation is needed to ensure that mandatory information requirements for harmful products are applied to online shopping contexts.

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