The Portman Group, the drinks industry's self-regulatory body, has rejected a "slur" on the sector by the author of an article in the British Medical Journal.

Alcoholic drinks firms routinely "push the boundaries" of laws designed to protect young people from alcohol marketing, write professor Gerard Hastings and colleagues in the BMJ article, published this week.

The Portman Group, which is funded by drinks firms to oversee a marketing code of practice, today (21 January) strongly rejected the claim.

"Gerard Hastings trawled through thousands of pages of internal company marketing documents on behalf of the [House of Commons] Health Select Committee," said Portman chief executive David Poley.

"He failed to find any evidence of actual malpractice. He therefore resorts to slurs and innuendos."

Tension is growing between health professionals and the drinks industry as the issue of alcohol misuse rises up the political agenda ahead of a General Election in the UK.

The BMJ, in an editorial accompanying Hastings' article, backed calls for a minimum price on alcohol and tougher restrictions on advertising.

Earlier this week, the Government confirmed it would introduce a mandatory code of practice for alcohol sales and promotion. The code will largely affect the on-trade.