Health guidelines missing from 93% of alcoholic drink labels

Fewer than one in 10 alcoholic drinks carry up to date health warnings, prompting campaigners to call for a mandatory labelling scheme.

The only mandatory requirement under EU law is that labels display alcohol by volume (ABV). The provision of other health information – such as pregnancy warnings, information about content in units, and references to the chief medical officer’s low risk guidelines – is covered by self-regulatory, voluntary codes.

The Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) reviewed 320 alcohol product labels across 12 UK locations to assess what health information was provided.

AHA found only 24 labels out of 320 included the CMO’s low-risk weekly guideline of 14 units, introduced in January 2016. Around two thirds (211) refered to out of date daily or weekly unit limits, whilst a quarter (80) carried no information at all on drinking guidelines. None of the products advised people to spread their drinking across the week, or to have drink-free days.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the AHA, said the alcohol industry “cannot be trusted to provide the public with health information”. He called for a change to the law that would require labels to include the CMO’s guidance, as well as prominent, evidence-based health warnings.

AHA said this would be possible to do within current EU laws. Brexit could also provide an opportunity to include ingredient, nutritional, calorie and alcohol content.

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