Fact-check: Support for alcohol health labelling

The alcohol industry’s Portman Group (PG) is using a study it co-funded to resist calls for providing health information on alcoholic drink labels. Here’s a look at what the study actually says.

PG says the study shows there is “strong opposition to cramming more information on pack”


The study says:

  • “Including CMO [Chief Medical Officer] guidance is seen as essential if alcohol labels are also going to include information on the units in the drink” (p26). [Note: PG removed the CMO guidance from its labelling standard in autumn.]
  • In a Manchester focus group there was “support for health warnings on alcohol labels” (p33)
  • Suggestions ranged from the relatively mild “Alcohol harms your health”, to much stronger cigarette-style warnings and images (p33)

 

PG says: 80% say they would “like to see less cluttered labels”

The study says:

  • 80% want a small amount of health information in bigger and clearer fonts and symbols (p52)
  • The relative importance given to different messages is shown in the chart below, with health warnings thought more important than the “drink responsibly” message (p36)
  • At most one-in-ten supported the idea of putting information online, something PG is advocating (light grey columns)

PG says: There is “little public interest in a radical overhaul of drinks labelling”

The study says:

  • “70% feel the balance between health information and product/brand information is about right” (p3). The question referred to the space allocated, not the content.
  • “Careful decisions need to be made about what to include, and where, and a balance struck between the font sizes and amount of content” (p4)

 

PG says: 86% of consumers “only look at labels for factual information and branding”

The study says:

  • 86% say they use alcohol labels (p18)

 

Further findings:

  • “Alcohol is thought of predominantly through the frame of having fun. This means it is disassociated from health-related behaviours like diet and exercise” (p3)
  • “This distinction is made possible because of a belief that the negative health consequences of alcohol are experienced primarily by alcoholics” (p11)
  • In focus groups only two health-conscious women observed there is “much less information about the nutritional content” of alcoholic drinks than other food and drink products (p17)