The Government is expected to force the alcohol industry to use health warnings on packaging after it resisted attempts to introduce a voluntary code. The move marks a U-turn by the Department of Health (DoH), which previously favoured self-regulation.
The DoH announced earlier this year that it was launching a voluntary code that asked companies to put labels on packaging warning about the dangers of drinking when pregnant (MW May 24).
But it is understood that this plan has been thrown into disarray following resistance from the likes of Diageo and Carlsberg. Both companies are thought to oppose the plans to increase labelling following controversy over the units of alcohol that can be consumed by pregnant women.
Last month, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) put out guidance stating: “There is no consistent evidence of adverse effects from low-to-moderate alcohol during pregnancy (less than one drink or 1.5 units per day).” This guidance differs from Government advice, which recommends a maximum of one to two units once or twice a week for pregnant women.
Scottish & Newcastle and Coors are planning to go ahead with their own levelling system and will introduce warning labels on all their brands early next year.
The brewers will use an image of a “crossed out” pregnant woman, rather than the Government’s recommended warning that states: “Drinking alcoholic beverages during pregnancy, even in small quantities, can have serious consequences for the health of the baby”.
A Diageo spokeswoman says: “We are fully involved in discussions with the DoH but we believe that labelling will only be effective if it is part of a coherent package of consistent communications for consumers around the responsible consumption of alcohol.”
Meanwhile, lobby group Alcohol Concern issued a report this weekend showing a spike in alcohol ads between 4pm and 6pm, which potentially target children.