Alcoholic drinks could ‘carry health warnings’

Alcohol producers could be forced to put health warnings on alcoholic drinks in a Government attempt to curb the nation’s binge drinking culture.

The proposal follows an independent report for the Department of Health which revealed that 85 per cent of alcoholic drinks fail to meet the current voluntary code on alcohol labelling.

The 2007 voluntary agreement between the drinks industry and the Government said that by the end of 2008 the majority of drinks should carry five key warnings on alcohol safety.

The Department of Health has launched a consultation aimed at improving the labelling of alcoholic drinks, with compulsory labelling being one of the options under consideration.

Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “The code should be mandatory. If the industry is dragging its heels, we cannot wait another three years for them to comply.”

Public Health Minister Gillian Merron said: “Whilst there should be no need to bring in legislation when the industry can clearly sort it out themselves, we will not hesitate to act decisively if industry does not deliver.

“I expect to see much more leadership from more of the major producers.

“We know that too many are drinking at harmful levels and producers should play their part in helping to stem this tide by ensuring we all have access to clear and consistent health information on labels.”

The other options under consideration include remaining with the current voluntary system and implementing a more robust self-regulatory agreement.

Under the current voluntary agreement drink labels should display the number of units in the drink, a message about responsible drinking, a logo for the alcohol charity Drinkaware, advice on drinking when pregnant and the NHS recommended drinking levels.

The consultation closes on 9 May 2010.

Last week it was revealed that supermarkets are continuing to slash the price of alcohol despite accusations that bargain booze deals are helping to fuel Britain’s binge drinking crisis.

Last month both Labour and the Conservatives unveiled their plans to tackle the nation’s binge drinking problem.

Labour want to ban “irresponsible” drinking promotions and the Conservatives have set out plans to place higher taxes on ‘problem’ drinks such as alcopops.

However, a professor from University College Hospital in London has attacked the two parties for trying to make political gains from the problem.

Professor Roger Williams accused Labour and the Conservatives of trying to make “political capital” by “claiming to have the policies that will end this nightmare.”

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