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Compulsory health warnings ‘unlikely’: WSTA

The government is unlikely to force the alcohol industry to put health warnings on its wine labels, an industry conference heard last week.

Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), said nothing was confirmed but the government had ‘indicated’ it would allow voluntary health labelling.

‘[It is] indicating it will allow the industry to voluntarily label its wines because 81% of suppliers have committed to the scheme.’

The government, which will announce the outcome of its consultation on alcohol labelling shortly, wants wine bottles to include unit content, the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines on daily limits and advice on alcohol and pregnancy.

Half of all wine bottles should contain the information by 2012 with the rest completed by 2014.

The move is part of the Coalition government’s ‘Responsibility Deal’ initiative by which it aims to work with industry to improve public health.

Speaking at the WSTA’s annual conference, Beadles warned that the Department of Health is also discussing including alcohol in its Change4Life initiative. This is part-funded by government and food companies to promote healthy eating and exercise.

But the move could threaten the future of alcohol awareness charity Drinkaware Trust, currently funded by the alcohol industry.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has already indicated a reluctance to continue part funding Change4Life and that business should increase its stake.

If this happens the Drinkaware Trust could ‘cease to exist,’ as the industry will be forced to re-allocate its funding, Beadles told Decanter.com

‘This could be very tricky for the future of the Drinkaware Trust,’ he said.

Chris Sorek, chief executive of Drinkaware, added: ‘It makes sense for the public, private and voluntary sectors to work together to achieve a common goal.

‘But when it comes to alcohol, the private and voluntary sectors are already working effectively to deliver the responsible drinking message to the public.’

Written by Shirley Kumar

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