Alcohol producers failing to communicate drinking guidelines

24 August 2017: Alcohol brands are failing to inform the public of the drinking guidelines and the health harms linked with alcohol, according to research published today.

The research, outlined in a report from the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), looked at the information included on alcohol product labels. It was carried out in May this year, some 15 months after the updated guidelines were launched.

Researchers found that, of the 315 product labels reviewed across 27 locations in the UK, only one informed the public of the up-to-date low-risk weekly drinking guideline of 14 units a week.

Where labels did contain information on the drinking guidelines, these guidelines were either out-of-date, or were the guidelines for the Republic of Ireland instead of the UK.

In addition, researchers found that no labels contained health warnings of the specific illnesses and diseases linked with alcohol.

The drinking guidelines were announced by the UK’s chief medical officers in January 2016. The guidelines are based on the latest evidence linking alcohol to illnesses like cancer and heart disease, and are designed to enable people to make an informed choice about their drinking.

At present, there are few requirements for what should appear on alcohol product labels. Alcohol producers, under a system of self-regulation, decide what to include.

Releasing their research, the AHA said that tougher rules were needed on alcohol labelling, to make sure alcohol producers inform the public of the health harms linked with their products.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the AHA, said:

“There is something seriously wrong with the system when consumers in the UK are more likely to buy a produce containing the Irish drinking guidelines rather than the current UK ones.

Self-regulation has failed. Instead of alcohol producers deciding what to include on labels, the government should now require all labels to contain the latest guidelines and information on the health conditions linked with alcohol.

“Alcohol is linked with over 200 diseases and injury conditions, including cancer, heart disease and liver disease, yet awareness of these links is currently very low.We know, for example, that only 1 in 10 people are aware of the link between alcohol and cancer.

“The public have the right to know about the health impacts of alcohol, so that they are empowered to make informed choices about their drinking.”

Note

The report can be read here.

The report’s appendix is available here.