Tepid reception for industry alcohol labelling pledge

News the biggest players in the UK’s alcohol industry have agreed to put weekly drinking guidelines on their labels, a month before a government deadline to do so, has prompted little jubilation among health advocates.

The Portman Group, an alcohol industry mouthpiece, dribbled out the news in a piece in the Daily Mail, couching its promise with a caveat about it being subject to “feasibility”. Jubilation was muted, with the UK’s trust-based system taking some 1,300 days to get this far.

The government agreed to let the alcohol industry have a “grace period” until September 1st to comply in March 2017, only making the agreement widely known in January this year. The terms of any new arrangement underlying today’s statement are unknown.

“This half-hearted pledge, by some parts of the alcohol industry, is a strong indicator that the UK deserves a fair system that sets a level playing field for all food and drinks producers,” the Alcohol Health Alliance told Alcohol Companion.”

“All alcohol products must advise drinkers about both the contents and consequences of consumption to empower consumers to make fully- informed choices about their health.”

“While this marks a half-step forward, it shows that the current system of alcohol industry self-regulation is failing consumers,” said Katherine Severi, head of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, which provides a health slant on alcohol policy

It remains to be seen what effect the Portman Group agreement will have, if any. It could prove to be mostly about refreshing the label for a period of inaction from “grace period” to “feasibility period”. ■