Government health warning for alcoholic drinksNew labels to include unit information

29 May 2007

Alcoholic drinks will get new warning labels under a government scheme to be implemented by the end of 2008.

In a voluntary agreement between ministers and the industry, all drinks will be expected to carry details of units and recommended safe drinking levels on their labels.

At present, bottles and cans carry percentage details of alcohol and most carry unit information.

But the government now wants safety advice for pregnant women put on there as well as the recommendations for safe drinking and the drink's unit content.

One unit is equivalent to a small glass of wine, half a pint of beer or one pub measure of spirits.

The government recommends that men do not regularly exceed three or four units a day and women do not exceed two or three units a day.

Binge drinking

The move comes amid fears about the rise in binge drinking and an increase in alcohol-related diseases and death.

For beer, wines and spirits, unit information will be given per glass and per bottle.

The charity website - www.drinkaware.co.uk - will also be included on the labels.

Public health minister Caroline Flint said: 'This landmark, voluntary agreement will help people calculate, at a glance, how much they are drinking and whether they are staying within sensible drinking guidelines.

'We want to make it as simple as possible for people to keep an eye on how much they are drinking and help them take the responsibility for lessening the impact excess alcohol can have on their health.

'Although most spirits and beer labels for sale in the UK market and many supermarkets' own brands of beers, wines and spirits, do carry some information on unit content, people can miscalculate and lose track of how much they are drinking.

'Unit information combined with sensible drinking guidelines on the new labels will make it simpler for people to calculate how many units they are drinking and make easier for them to stick to the recommended limits.'

Better choices

A spokesman for the Portman group said its members, which represent more than 60 per cent of beer, wine and spirits manufacturers in the UK, already carry unit information.

Around 85 per cent of beer manufacturers already carry unit details on their labels.

Kevin Byrne, interim chief executive of Drinkaware, said: "We welcome the new labelling on alcoholic drinks.

"We hope that by providing consumers with more readily accessible information, it will enable them to make better choices about how often and how much they drink."

Government research shows that 86 per cent of people know units are a measure of alcohol and 69 per cent know the recommended limits.

However, only 13 per cent keep a check on the number of units they drink each week.

Three quarters (75 per cent) of people support the idea of labelling, Government surveys have shown.

The move will be supported with a new campaign next year to raise awareness of unit measurements.

The Press Association, All Rights Reserved.