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Wine industry must promote responsible drinking

Published:  24 June, 2009

The wine industry must pull together and promote responsible drinking against the growing global backlash against excessive alcohol consumption, delegates were warned at Vinexpo.
Speaking at the Individual roles and shared responsibility seminar, Robert Beynat, Vinexpo commissioner general, described the health lobbying groups as the "medical Taliban" against the industry but urged delegates not to ignore them.
Robert Madelin, European Commission director general, health and consumers, added: "Wine is unique in its aspects of culture and identity but it is still a commercial product.
"44% of our member-state public authorities want some kind of action to be taken against increased binge drinking. Alcohol is one of the top 10 killers in Europe today," he said.
A Eurobarometer survey carried out by the EC in 2007 across its member states found that 76% of citizens would approve of banning alcohol advertising targeting young people, 50% would buy less alcohol if price went up by 25% and 77% wanted warnings put on alcohol bottles and warnings against drinking and driving and for pregnant women, he said.
Madelin, however, praised the UK iindustry for its approach to tackling binge drinking. He told Harpers: "There is still a degree of mistrust in the UK but at least the industry is
able to work with health bodies to debate the issues surrounding alcohol. The Drinkaware Trust is a good example."
Madelin added that he was confident the UK alcohol industry would make the necessary changes and not the Government, which will only go as far as reacting to public opinion.
"Take advertising of junk food to children. Consumers pressured the industry and it was the industry that decided to curb its advertising to children," he said.
He said that supermarket attitudes were changing because the issues of selling alcohol below cost were "just too hot to handle."
But warned the hospitality industry would take more time due to its fragmented nature and the economic pressures that have led to more promotions such as 2 for 1 and happy hours.
"Change here will come at a local level via Magistrates controlling alcohol licenses," he said.