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Portman Group labels Drinking in the Dark report “utter nonsense”

Published:  26 August, 2020

The Portman Group has issued a strong rebuttal to a new report from the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) which calls alcohol labelling in the UK “inadequate”.

The group strongly disagrees with the conclusion that alcohol labelling “fails consumers”.

AHA’s Drinking in the Dark report claims that updated CMO guidelines remain absent from 70% of alcohol containers across the UK four years after they were introduced, while a quarter contained misleading, out-of-date health information.

It also said that the Portman Group’s own members were least likely to include the correct low-risk drinking guidelines at just 2%.

John Timothy, CEO of the Portman Group hit back at this, stating that its members are “leaders” in the industry when it comes to health and safety information.

“Take just two of our Portman Group members, Heineken and Budweiser Brewing Group, who represent over half of the UK’s beer and cider market. They already carry full CMO guidance on over 60% of their products and they will have nearly completed the process by the end of the year," he said. 

“On nutrition information, over 95% of products carry this on labels. Our members are leaders in the industry, ensuring that for over 30 years that the sector is responsible and in that time have seen significant declines in alcohol consumption, youth drinking, drink driving and alcohol-related crime.”

He added: “This report is utter nonsense, based on out of date information and the typical anti-alcohol ideology of the AHA who can’t stand the fact that the moderate majority can sensibly enjoy a drink and stick within the 14 unit guidance.”

The report comes hot on the heels on the debate around calorie labelling in the UK, which is due to reach the consultation stage later this year.

Today, the Portman Group reiterated the alcohol industry’s active role in promoting drinking in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

According to the latest data from YouGov, 88% of people have been drinking the same, less or stopped drinking altogether since the start of lockdown, challenging previously held assumptions of a nation drinking its way through the pandemic.

NHS and devolved UK health service surveys similarly show that four in five adults do not exceed the CMO’s recommended lower-risk guideline of 14 units per week.

Compliance with industry guidelines is at 95% for the alcohol industry, up from 92% in the 2012 market audit (Zenith Global).