Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Portman Group rebuts claim it advised removal of CMO guidance as RSPH pushes hard hitting labelling

Published:  26 January, 2018

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has released proposals for a hard-hitting new alcohol labelling scheme in the face of what it describes as an “alcohol health awareness vacuum”.

Unveiled in a new RSPH Labelling the Point proposal, based on an earlier Alcohol Labelling Research report co-funded by The Portman Group, the proposals include recommendations that labels should carry mandatory information on the Government’s 14 unit a week drinking guidelines.

It further calls for cigarette packet-style warnings of links to health conditions such as cancers, plus drink drive warnings and calorie content, with a possible ‘traffic light system’ to highlight alcoholic strength.

RSPH claims that the proposed scheme would help clarify for consumers the Government’s low-risk drinking guidelines by contextualising this information, citing new research that suggests current alcohol unit information has little traction with consumers.

Taking a sideswipe at industry self-regulatory body The Portman Group, RSPH accused the organisation of back-peddling by moving “to make alcohol labels even less informative to the public”, suggesting that it no longer recommended that CMO (Chief Medical Officer) guidelines should be on the labels.

“RSPH is concerned that this signals that the Portman Group is no longer serious about setting a challenge for industry to play their part in informing the public and protecting their health,” said a statement released by the health lobby groups.

The Portman Group, which co-funded the original consumer-focused Alcohol Labelling Research that underpins these new proposals, has swiftly countered the accusation.

that the findings of the research clearly indicated that there was little public call for such information, although its voluntary guidance for producers has an entire section devoted to CMO guidance.

“We aren’t instructing producers to take off CMO guidelines from labels and our voluntary guidance has a whole section on CMO guidance,’ said a spokesperson.

“This new approach of not having a single, one option only label provides greater flexibility for producers to feature other elements such as calorie content and drink drive warnings graphically.”

The Portman Group also questioned some of the assumptions underpinning RSPH push for harder hitting labelling, seeking to clarify the feedback from the public that the research delivered.

“The original research we co-funded with the RSPH found little public interest in a radical overhaul of drinks labelling and strong opposition to cramming more information on pack,” said Portman Group chief executive John Timothy, in response to the RSPH proposals.

“The study shows that 86% of consumers only look at labels for factual information and branding with 80% saying they would like to see less cluttered labels.”

The research also revealed that, when asked about health specifically, 70% of consumers believed the current approach to label information from the drinks industry “was about right”.

Timothy went on to say: “these findings support the approach taken by the industry in developing updated voluntary guidance which includes a whole section on how producers can display the CMOs’ guidelines on labels - to suggest otherwise is misrepresentative.”