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Tories to change labelling of alcohol to curb binge drinking

Friday, January 15th, 2010 Tories to change labelling of alcohol to curb binge drinking

The Conservatives will label every bottle of beer, wine and spirits in Britain in an attempt to curb binge drinking and suggest a “socially responsible” level of consumption.

At present, the volume of alcohol contained in a drink is expressed as “units of alcohol”, however many people find this term to be confusing. The Tories say that they will replace this system in favour of displaying the centilitres of pure alcohol in drinks, if they were to win this year’s general election.

Shadow Home Secretary, Andrew Lansley, revealed the Conservatives’ public health agenda which focuses on combating drug abuse, excessive drinking, teenage pregnancy and obesity.

It is hoped that the new labelling system would enable members of the public to compare their won drinking habits with the rest of the population. The labels will also contain additional information, such as the calorific content of each drink.

The Tories have rejected calls from doctors to introduce a minimum pricing on alcohol saying that they would want to work with the drinks industry and consumers rather than have a “prescriptive” approach.

Mr Lansley said: “We need to unleash a new era of individual and social responsibility,” he said. “We believe that the positive choices that promote well-being will come through more information, better role models and positive social norms.”

“Let’s focus on alcoholic content and build around it an understanding of what are social norms and responsible drinking.

“What we should put on the glass or bottle of wine is the amount of alcohol in it. Let’s talk about it in terms of centilitres of alcohol. At the moment, people think about how many drinks they have had, not how many units.”

Alcohol Concern supports the proposal of more information being provided to the public, but also said that many people were just beginning to grasp the current units system.

A spokeswoman said: “Allowing the industry to regulate itself is like a chocolate teapot. You need mandatory regulation.”

The Tories’ proposal has met opposition from the Department of Health, which said it was “not the Government’s role to dictate social norms”.

“To make an informed choice about their health, people simply need clear advice on what’s in their favourite drink — a pint of lager, a glass of wine, or a gin and tonic.
That’s exactly what our Know Your Limits ‘Units’ campaign has done.

“The government has worked hard with industry so that labels on bottles and cans should give people the number of units in the drink and the NHS advice on daily limits. We are already looking at putting calorie information on labels.”

In addition to this, Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, said: “Changing to centilitres would be a big mistake and undo 30 years of public education about units of alcohol.

“The best way to tackle confusion is to have mandatory standardised labelling. It’s time to stop pussyfooting around with the alcohol industry.”

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