Recently, a personal story has been circulating the internet regarding a post on the interactive social media news platform, Reddit. The story outlines a restaurant waiter in the United States who provided a customer with ‘virgin’ cocktails (i.e., without alcohol), when she ordered alcoholic beverages, as the waiter believed the woman was pregnant. In Canada, there is no law against serving alcohol to pregnant women, and it is considered discrimination if servers refuse to do so.
This story had the staff and researchers at CanFASD wondering what kind of training, if any, servers and bartending staff in Canada receive in regards to alcohol consumption during pregnancy and FASD.
Every province and territory has a training course that restaurant and bar staff are required to complete in order to legally serve alcohol to customers. For example, in Ontario, this course is called SmartServe, and in Alberta it is known as ProServe.
After reviewing the course content for each province and territory’s training program, the following themes were evident:
- A few programs do not mention alcohol consumption or FASD in any way
- A few programs touch on alcohol and pregnancy, but do not talk about FASD
- Most programs mention alcohol and pregnancy, as well as FASD. However, the majority of programs do not go into much detail regarding the implications of a pregnant woman consuming alcohol, or how to appropriately offer mocktail alternatives to a pregnant customer.
It is clear that there is a need for more evidence-based information around alcohol and pregnancy in these alcohol service training courses. It is important that people who serve alcohol to the public on a regular basis are FASD-informed, use non-judgmental language when speaking about alcohol and pregnancy, and offer choice to women in respectful, affirming ways. It is also important that alcohol serving establishments get involved in awareness raising about alcohol and pregnancy in other ways, such as having information available in washrooms, and even practical supports such as pregnancy tests and condoms as has been done with success in the Yukon.