Call for health warnings on alcohol to remain voluntary

WSTA to tackle government over label advice to pregnant women

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association is seeking government assurances that health warnings on alcohol will remain voluntary.

Chief executive Jeremy Beadles will meet Department of Health officials today (March 23) following a story in The Observer on March 18 suggest ing th at label templates had been finalised and would warn pregnant women and those planning to get pregnant to avoid alcohol.

According to the report, health minister Caroline Flint said the labels could become compulsory if the drinks industry did not take up a voluntary scheme .

Beadles said a letter from the DoH to suppliers suggested the sensible drinking message had been agreed with the industry. "I was more than a little surprised to see it suggests it's been agreed. I'm not saying no to this proposal, just saying that the membership is being consulted," he said.

Beadles said the fact that the government has suggested a timetable of implementation gave the impression that the measure was compulsory, and he would seek to clarify the government's stance.

The WSTA would attempt to "ensure that this is seen as a voluntary measure" and push for the "UK to take a lead on developing a European-wide message", he added.

It is also carrying out a cost/benefit analysis of full ingredients listing for the drinks industry. An EU food labelling review is under way, and one suggestion has been a requirement for suppliers to list all ingredients used to make a product, which would include the finings used in winemaking.

The WSTA said it had "serious concerns" about the suggestion.