AHA response to the news that alcohol producers will no longer be advised to display the drinking guidelines on labels

11 October 2017: AHA members have today written a letter published in the Daily Mail to call on the government to introduce compulsory health labelling of all alcohol products, to ensure that drinkers are aware of the alcohol guidelines and the health risks associated with alcohol.

The calls come after the decision by the Portman Group, the alcohol industry-funded body which advisers producers on labelling, to no longer recommend that producers display the low-risk guidelines on their labels.

The full text of the letter is below.

Sir,

Since 2007, following a voluntary agreement, alcohol labels in the UK have displayed the unit content, the lower risk limits for consumption and a pregnancy message. In January 2016 the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers introduced new drinking guidelines. The recommendation followed a thorough review of the latest evidence carried out by independent scientific experts, the first review of its kind for 20 years. The CMOs advise that to keep risks low, it is safest for both men and women not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week.

Since the introduction of the new guidelines, however, the Portman Group, the alcohol industry-funded body which advises producers on labelling, has now removed its recommendation that producers display the low-risk guidelines on their labels, and no other alcohol industry trade association has published guidance to their members in which they recommend communicating the guidelines.

With alcohol related hospital admissions standing at over one million a year, this is clearly very concerning. We all have a right to know the guidelines, so that we can make informed choices about our drinking. By no longer displaying the lower risk guidelines, the alcohol industry are denying people the information they need.

Alcohol is linked with over 60 diseases and illnesses, including heart disease, liver disease, cancer and depression. Indeed, the change in guidelines was influenced by strengthening evidence of the link between alcohol and seven different types of cancer.

The Government should now introduce compulsory health labelling on all alcohol products, to ensure that drinkers are clear on what constitutes low risk drinking. As well as informing consumers of the guidelines, labels should also outline the specific health risks associated with alcohol, and signpost to independent sources of advice on alcohol and health, such as the NHS website.

Yours sincerely

Dr Adrian Boyle, Royal College of Emergency Medicine

Professor Colin Drummond, Royal College of Psychiatrists

Professor Frank Murray, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

Professor Jane Dacre, Royal College of Physicians of London

Shirley Cramer CBE, Royal Society for Public Health

Professor Woody Caan, Faculty of Public Health

Dr Dominique Florin, Medical Council on Alcohol

Dr Kieran Moriarty, British Society of Gastroenterology

Andrew Furber, Association of Directors of Public Health

Professor Graeme Alexander, British Association for the Study of the Liver

Professor Roger Williams, Foundation for Liver Research

Colin Shevills, Balance, the North East Alcohol Office

Katherine Brown, Institute of Alcohol Studies

Alison Douglas, Alcohol Focus Scotland

Dr Eric Carlin, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems

Richard Piper, Alcohol Research UK

Jonathan Shepherd, Crime and Security Research Institute, Cardiff University

Professor Robin Touquet, Imperial College London & St Mary’s Hospital Paddington

Dr Chris Record, Newcastle University

Terry Martin, Alcohelp

Nigel Bongard, Alcohelp

Mark Shepperd, Turning Point

Justina Murray, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs

John Jolly, Blenheim CDP

Diane Goslar