More curbs on the way for alcoholic drinks sector

Labels warning pregnant women of the risks of drinking could soon be put on alcohol bottles, as the pressure grows for further curbs on the industry’s marketing.

The Department of Health is thought to be announcing a voluntary code about putting new labels on alcoholic drinks packaging later this month.

The initiative is thought to be yet another attempt to fend off calls for stricter legislation, with the new labelling to sit alongside existing health warnings.

David Poley, chief executive of the responsible alcohol standards body Portman Group, says: “Any changes to the Government’s sensible drinking advice should be communicated clearly, widely and consistently to avoid confusing consumers.” He adds that the initiative should form part of a wider, properly resourced and co-ordinated publicity campaign.

Two years ago rules governing the advertising of alcohol were tightened by Ofcom, following consultation with the industry. These govern changes related primarily to ads linking alcohol with sexual success or featuring youth.

However, some are unconvinced that the industry should be allowed to self-regulate. In urging that the alcohol labelling bill be read a second time Lord Mitchell last month told the House of Lords that he did not believe a code imposed by self-regulation was sufficient. “That is why I believe the bill, making it mandatory to include a warning label, is a better solution,” he said.

Such a label would read: “Government warning: drinking alcoholic beverages during pregnancy, even in small quantities, can have serious consequences for the health of the baby”.

In America labelling has been in place since 1989.

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