Labelling rules reviewed in UK

Labelling rules reviewed in UK

Alcoholic drinks firms may face mandatory labelling rules in the UK after a Government report revealed that the industry is failing to abide by a voluntary agreement to warn of the dangers of harmful drinking.

Only 15% of drinks on sale give consumers enough information about alcohol units and potential health problems associated with drinking too much alcohol, the Government said today (15 February).

Ministers have launched a fresh consultation on drinks labelling, which could lead to mandatory labelling regulations.

Major drinks firms and trade bodies signed a voluntary agreement with Government in 2007, in which they pledged to include the following on labels: unit information, pregnancy advice, a responsible drinking message, the logo and web address of the industry-funded Drinkaware charity and official daily recommended limits in units.

"Despite responsible efforts from some brands such as Bulmers, Fosters, Kronenbourg and the major supermarkets, overall progress on labelling is very disappointing," said public health minister Gillian Merron.

"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," said Merron, adding that the Government expects "much more leadership from more of the major producers".

Drinks firms and trade bodies were privately expecting to be wrapped on the knuckles over labelling, industry sources have told just-drinks.

However, trade body the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said that its own research on labelling revealed higher compliance levels than the Government study, known as the Campden survey.

"There is no doubt that the figures from the Campden survey are disappointing but they are also rather surprising given our own research conducted more recently," said WSTA chief executive Jeremy Beadles.
"We have analysed (July, 2009) three times as many products at two major supermarket outlets and they show significantly higher levels of compliance with all five elements of the labelling scheme. Over 50% of our sample is using the Pregnancy logo, for example," said Beadles.

"What's more, in the last few months several major companies have signed up to the voluntary scheme," he said, adding that the WSTA urges all companies to sign up in order to avoid legislation.