Are alcohol labels giving consumers the information they need?

A report, Right to Know: are alcohol labels giving consumers the information they need?, published today (23 August 2017) by the Alcohol Health Alliance has reviewed whether labels are communicating the current drinking guidelines. Out of 315 labels reviewed, they found only one which contained the chief medical officers’ low-risk weekly guideline of 14 units.

We agree with their conclusion that alcohol industry self-regulation of labelling has failed, and that it is time for a regime of mandatory labelling of products to ensure they carry the UK guidelines and provide sufficient warning of the health harms linked with alcohol.


WHY IS ALCOHOL PRODUCT LABELLING IMPORTANT?

Labelling of alcohol products has been shown to increase awareness of the harms associated with drinking.

Alcohol is linked to over 200 diseases and injury conditions including cancer, heart disease and liver disease, and the public have the right to know about these harms, in order make informed choices about their drinking. Worryingly, awareness of these harms is currently very low. AHA research has found that 82% of people are not aware of the alcohol guidelines3 , and we know that only 1 in 10 people are aware of the link between alcohol and cancer.

In 2016 the UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) updated the low risk drinking guidelines for adults taking account of the latest available evidence linking alcohol to a number of health conditions, notably cancer. Weekly guidelines were revised to 14 units for both men and women. The new guidelines were based on two principles:

1. People have a right to accurate information and clear advice about alcohol and its health risks

2. Government has a responsibility to ensure this information is provided for the pubic in a clear and open way, so they can make informed choices

The CMOs’ expert report recommended that health warnings and consistent messaging appear on all alcohol advertising, products and sponsorship. The purpose of this report is to review what action has been taken by alcohol companies to inform consumers about the new drinking guidelines.

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