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Beadles challenges industry to ‘take pledge’ on alcohol harm reduction

Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association today threw down the gauntlet to drinks companies yet to contribute to the government’s voluntary code of practice on alcohol.

Wine companies could save money by reducing alcohol, he said.

Speaking at the WSTA’s annual conference this morning, Andrew Lansley MP, Secretary Of State for Health, had paid tribute to the 110 companies that have signed up to the voluntary code of practice, the Health Responsibility Deal, which the government launched in March this year.

The deal was roundly condemned by health bodies at the time, but was welcomed by the drinks industry.

‘You as an industry have clearly demonstrated understanding and commitment,’ he said.

Lansley mentioned companies that had taken unilateral steps to ‘foster a culture of responsible drinking’.

These include Asda, which no longer displays alcohol in shop foyers, Heineken, which has pledged to remove 100m units of alcohol from the shelves by reducing the strength of one of its drinks [possibly Strongbow cider], and Diageo’s training programmes for midwives.

These are ‘big steps forward’, he said, adding it was important for all companies to understand ‘both the letter and the spirit of the deal’.

Later, Jeremy Beadles (pictured) spoke plainly of the need for more companies to take the pledge to reduce the harmful effects of drinking.

‘It would be great to see more individual pledges,’ he said, stressing that it need not mean loss of income.

‘By taking 0.7 degrees of alcohol from one product Heineken are reducing their alcohol units by 100m but they are not selling less product, just fewer units.’

In a similar fashion, wine could be taken down one unit of alcohol. If New World wines reduced alcohol by as little as one per cent, they could reduce import duties to the EU. ‘In today’s climate, every little saving is a help,’ Beadles said.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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