Alcohol

House of Lords written question – answered on 25th March 2014.

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Photo of Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Labour

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Portman Group in its role as monitor of the alcohol industry’s progress to a voluntary labelling pledge under the Responsibility Deal about the fifth edition of its Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks, which does not require labels on alcoholic drinks to display their calorie or sugar content; and whether they intend to ask the Portman Group to persuade its members to display such information on their labels.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

Progress on delivery of the alcohol industry's commitment to “ensure that over 80% of products on shelf (by December 2013) will have labels with clear unit content, National Health Service guidelines and a warning about drinking when pregnant” is subject to independent monitoring. This commitment does not require the displaying of calorie information or sugar content on the labels.

The Portman Group published its “Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks (Fifth Edition)” in May 2013. It provides a procedural framework for influencing, regulating and controlling industry practice and seeks to ensure that alcohol is promoted in a socially responsible manner and only to those aged over 18. This is not an element of the labelling pledge.

The Portman Group Guidance Note on the Remit of Fifth Edition of Portman Group Code (November 2012) says that purely factual statements concerning calorie content will be acceptable in the marketing of alcoholic drinks.

Calorie labelling of alcoholic drinks is regulated by the European Union. The United Kingdom Government is in favour of mandatory energy declarations and will press for the inclusion of information that consumers need to make informed choices about what and how much they drink. The Government is awaiting a European Commission report on nutrition labelling and ingredient listing on alcoholic drinks, which we expect later this year.

Meanwhile, 49 businesses have signed up to the voluntary Responsibility Deal pledge on awareness of alcohol units, calories and other information in the off-trade (supermarkets and off-licenses). Information on calories of alcoholic drinks is also available to consumers through the Change4Life and Drinkaware alcohol apps and websites, and most retailers' websites.

We will continue to consider what more can be done through the Responsibility Deal to improve public health, including through consumer information.

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