New Warning Labels on the Way?
Should drink producers and sellers be doing more to inform customers of the latest drinking guidelines?
There has been plenty of discussion over recent months regarding food labelling, and whether manufacturers and packaging companies are doing enough to inform the public about the health impact of their products. This has led to widespread debate and more than a little controversy about brands owning up to the salt, sugar and fat content in their products.
However, to some, this is tantamount to ignoring the elephant in the room. Researchers from an alcohol awareness group surveyed 100 beer, wine and spirit labels and found that not one of them informed consumers of the latest government guidelines on alcohol consumption.
This has led to calls for stricter control and regulation, which could mean the need for special custom-labels on all alcoholic drinks.
At present, like so many aspects of labelling in the food and drink industry, there is a process of self regulation in operation, but little in the way of legal requirements. This means producers decide for themselves what to put on their labels.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, of the 100 labels surveyed, none contained warnings relating to the illnesses or diseases linked to alcohol consumption. Some showed advice regarding safe consumption levels, but in every case, this was based on outdated figures and did not reflect the latest government guidelines that were issued in January 2016.
New government guidelines
The latest guidelines recommend that men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week. This equates to around six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine. It replaces previous advice, published back in the 1990s, that recommended a maximum 2-3 units per day for women and 3-4 units per day for men.
The change came about in view of better understanding of the links between alcohol consumption and serious conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
The research into current labelling practices was carried out by Balance, a charitable group based in North East England, which seeks to educate the public on the risks associated with alcohol, improve public health and reduce alcohol related illness and social problems.
Director Colin Shevills said the fact that a year and a half has gone by since the new guidelines came out, yet not a single label mentions it is particularly worrying.
He suggested that alcohol should be classified and regulated in the same way as tobacco, to warn the public of the potential health risks.
Mr Shevills went on to state that the research carried out by Balance proves that self regulation simply does not work, and called on the government to take action. He suggested that this should include mandatory health warning labels on all alcohol products, along with government funded mass media campaigns to highlight the risks associated with drinking alcohol and the new government regulations, of which many people are still unaware.
He said that the majority of people in the North East would be in favour of compulsory health warning labels appearing on alcohol products.