THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Sunday 12th June 2011

I hope they give midwives a long spoon.

News that Diageo, ‘the world’s leading premium drinks business’, is to sponsor training for midwives aimed at reducing the alcohol intake of pregnant women has met with a hostile reaction from a number of groups.

Incidentally, I can’t help wondering why Diageo’s description of itself, quoted above, excludes any reference to alcohol. Is it just that adding the word ‘alcoholic’ before ‘drinks’ might make the phrase less zippy or is the company anxious not to remind people of the association between ‘drink’ and ‘alcoholic’.

The plan is to train 10,000 midwives in a bid to reduce the incidence of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), the name given to a range of impairments that can have lifelong effects on the unborn child. The scheme is to be run by the National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome UK (Nofas-UK) and Diageo is, apparently, doing no more than provide finance to enable Nofas-Uk’s existing training programme to be made more widely available.

That seems innocent enough yet Alcohol Concern, the BMA and the Royal College of Physicians are just three of the groups who have refused to co-operate with the scheme. Their concerns may, perhaps, be based on the alcohol industry’s track record when it comes to giving advice about its dangers. Though the UK’s Department of Health recommends that pregnant women consume no alcohol during pregnancy, the Drink Aware website, financed by the alcohol industry ‘to change the UK’s drinking habits for the better’, says that ‘In short, scientists are not sure about the precise impact of small amounts of alcohol on unborn babies’.

It’s this claim to want to reduce the harm caused by alcohol without acknowledging that harm which makes people suspicious of the motivations of Diageo when it comes to the Nofas-UK programme.

To an extent, of course, the drinks industry is right to say that alcohol doesn’t cause harm. As with all other plant based poisons, it takes the intervention of human beings to make a poison, harmful. You don’t deal with the huge damage alcohol does to society by trying to prevent its existence. You have to educate people to recognise the damage drink does both to health and to society.

As far as FAS is concerned, the question is whether midwives can, or should, be trained to deliver the anti-alcohol message pregnant women need to hear. Research conducted by the NHS in Tayside in 2009 found that midwives can be reluctant to deliver the alcohol abstinence message for fear of damaging their relationship with the pregnant woman making it difficult to offer further advice. The message about abstinence during pregnancy should come from society as a whole if it is really going to be effective.

The same research also found that the alcohol message was often restricted to the first meeting with a newly pregnant woman suggesting that it may be being delivered in the same way that GPs routinely tell people to stop smoking without actually engaging in any meaningful intervention.

It does seem that, by funding a programme that may have minimum effect Diageo is following the pattern of previous alcohol industry financing that has been aimed at appearing to be responsible without actually causing any serious upset to sales.

Education about the effects of alcohol on children should go far beyond FAS and look at the long-term detriment for children growing up in families where alcohol use, at least, diverts money from the child’s needs and, at worst, produces domestic turmoil and family breakdown. The message should be ‘Don’t drink’ rather than ‘Don’t drink during pregnancy’.

But that’s a programme the alcohol industry is unlikely to want to support. The only place to get funding for that sort of approach is direct from government and, given that government has endorsed this programme because it means it does not have to spend its own money, it is unlikely that funding for a proper programme of training on the effects of alcohol will be forthcoming in the foreseeable future.

Perhaps, it is the government that needs the long spoon.


Full Entries


Tuesday 25th October 2016
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sunday 6th March 2016
Wednesday 3rd February 2016


Saturday 28th November 2015
Friday 27th November 2015
Monday 17th August 2015
Wednesday 15th July 2015
Friday 26th June 2015
Thursday 25th June 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Wednesday 11th March 2015
Tuesday 3rd March 2015
Saturday 28th February 2015
Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014
Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014
Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014
Saturday 16th August 2014
Tuesday 5th August 2014
Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Sunday 13th July 2014
Sunday 6th July 2014
Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014
Tuesday 24th June 2014
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Monday 9th June 2014
Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014
Sunday 18th May 2014
Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014
Saturday 5th April 2014
Thursday 3rd April 2014
Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014
Tuesday 25th March 2014
Friday 21st March 2014
Monday 17th March 2014
Sunday 16th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Thursday 6th March 2014
Wednesday 5th March 2014
Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014
Monday 24th February 2014
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Monday 17th February 2014
Thursday 13th February 2014
Monday 4th February 2014
Monday 3rd February 2014
Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014
Thursday 23rd January 2014
Friday 17th January 2014
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Monday 13th January 2014
Thursday 9th January 2014
Tuesday 7th January 2014
Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013
Friday 20th December 2013
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Friday 14th December 2013
Thursday 12th December 2013
Sunday 8th December 2013
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013
Wednesday 27th November 2013
Tuesday 26th November 2013
Friday 22nd November 2013
Monday 18th November 2013
Friday 15th November 2013
Thursday 14th November 2013
Sunday 10th November 2013
Thursday 7th November 2013
Wednesday 6th November 2013
Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013
Sunday 27th October 2013
Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Monday 21st October 2013
Friday 18th October 2013
Friday 11th October 2013
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Tuesday 8th October 2013
Monday 7th October 2013
Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013
Saturday 28th September 2013
Friday 27th September 2013
Monday 23rd September 2013
Sunday 15th September 2013
Monday 9th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Sunday 8th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013
Sunday 25th August 2013
Monday 19th August 2013
Friday 16th August 2013
Tuesday 13th August 2013
Friday 9th August 2013
Friday 2nd August 2013
Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013
Sunday 21st July 2013
Wednesday 17th July 2013
Monday 15th July 2013
Saturday 13th July 2013
Friday 12th July 2013
Thursday 11th July 2013
Wednesday 10th July 2013
Tuesday 9th July 2013
Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013
Tuesday 25th June 2013
Friday 21st June 2013
Thursday 20th June 2013
Wednesday 19th June 2013
Saturday 15th June 2013
Sunday 9th June 2013
Saturday 8th June 2013
Saturday 1st June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012 blog

June 2012 blog

May 2012 blog

April 2012 blog

March 2012 blog

February 2012 blog

January 2012 blog

December 2011 blog

November 2011 blog

October 2011 blog

September 2011 blog

August 2011 blog

July 2011 blog

June 2011 blog


The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.