Alcohol industry criticised for failing consumers

Alcoholic drinks makers are falling short of their corporate social responsibilities by not including sufficient health information on their products, according to Alcohol Concern.

The charity’s “Message in a Bottle” report reveals that only 4% of products it reviewed carried all five criteria set out by the Department of Health as the ideal components of an alcohol label.

These are namely unit information, sensible drinking guidelines, information about drinking when pregnant, the Drinkaware website address and the “know your limits” slogan.

The charity claims that only 18% of products carried information about sensible drinking levels, while just over half carried unit information.

It looked at ten promoted products in branches of five supermarkets – Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose.

Alcohol Concern says the drinks industry is not keeping its own promise, made last year, to improve alcohol labelling and has used the report as an opportunity to renew its call on the Government to introduce mandatory health warnings on alcohol products and for supermarkets to only promote products that are clearly labelled.

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, says: “There is a huge disparity between the drinks industry’s enthusiasm to promote and advertise alcohol to the public and their willingness to give consumers the facts about what they are drinking.”

David Poley, chief executive of the Portman Group, the social responsibility body for drinks producers, says the inclusion of responsible drinking information on labels is becoming “increasingly common”.

He adds that industry funded alcohol information Drinkaware website is promoted “extensively” on packs.

“Labelling is only one way that companies can communicate the sensible drinking message,” he says. 

The charity’s comments come in the same week as details of the “Campaign for Smarter Drinking” were revealed.

The £100m campaign, developed by 45 companies in partnership with industry-funded charity Drinkaware and the Government, aims to change young people’s attitudes to drunkenness and alcohol misuse.

Pubs, bars, phoneboxes, supermarkets and off licences nationwide will carry campaign posters, drink mats, stickers and shelf strips presenting tips for smarter drinking.

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