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UK: Brewers question funding of alcohol harm reduction

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UK brewers, while welcoming the recent Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy (AHRMS), have questioned the effectiveness of the proposal to set up a separate fund to tackle alcohol related harm and have called for the Government to establish clearly defined targets against which success can be measured.

Steve Cahillane, regional president of Interbrew UK and Ireland, speaking on behalf of UK brewers in a representation made to Hazel Blears - Minister of State for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety and the Sponsor Minister for the Strategy Unit project - has expressed concern that the proposal to establish a separate fund may result in less industry funds actually reaching "the front line".

Cahillane said:  "We are currently assessing what aspects of the strategy we can deliver quickly and are keen to get on with implementing proposals that will make a difference. There are already in place established industry funded programmes which are implemented both through the Portman Group - which is one of the best regulatory bodies I have encountered - and company initiatives, that have a direct impact on reducing alcohol related harm. 

"But we recognise that we would not be here today if there were not issues of over consumption and harm associated with alcohol which need addressing.  However, I would suggest that if an alternative fund is established as proposed and administered by the Department of Health, Home Office and a separate Board, we may actually see less industry funds reaching the front line."

Cahillane, an American, said:  "Why is it that British beer is revered in the US and elsewhere in the world - Britain is seen as the 'home' of great beer - yet here the British media tends to focus only on the negative associations of beer: lager louts, beer bellies, and downing pints?  There is clearly a cultural issue and we welcome the opportunity to work with Government to look at how we can play a role, for example, in encouraging a more continental-style approach to drinking culture in the UK."

Cahillane urged the Government to use to its full advantage the industry's extensive investment and expertise in researching and understanding consumer behaviour, and pledged on behalf of UK brewers that they would work to ensure codes of good marketing practice were not only embedded throughout their companies, but also that they would promote good practice throughout the supply chain. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, Blears responded by inviting the industry to nominate 3-4 senior industry people to work on developing a Social Responsibility Charter which will benefit directly those affected by over consumption or harm associated with alcohol. 

Blears also acknowledged the industry's wishes for voluntary rather than legislative regulation, and stated that the position would be reviewed next year, adding:  "If it is working and is making a difference we will carry on.  If not, we will legislate."


Sectors: Beer & cider

Companies: Anheuser-Busch InBev

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