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Portman Group calls to keep calorie labelling voluntary

UK watchdog the Portman Group has released findings on alcohol labelling ahead of an upcoming consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care.

The UK government announced that displaying public health information on alcoholic drinks might become mandatory, ahead of a consultation on the UK’s obesity strategy.

The Portman Group is requesting that labelling be kept voluntary, given the majority of brands already display health guidance on labels.

Portman Group CEO Matt Lambert said: “Responsible alcohol marketing needs to be clear, and have information that consumers can easily understand to make informed choices. It is a significant achievement that the industry is delivering on its commitments to ensuring high standards of voluntary best practice.”

In its new study, Informing Alcohol Consumers: 2021 UK Market Review, the independent regulatory body looked at 400 of the most widely consumed alcoholic drinks from leading UK-based brands.

The results showed almost half (47%) of the bottles carry calorie information on labels, despite there being no legal requirement to do so.

Also, 99% of bottles display pregnancy warnings, 94% offer alcohol unit information, and 79% print the UK chief medical officer’s (CMO) low-risk drinking guidelines.

“As our report shows, calorie information on alcohol labelling is firmly on track to become a majority-wide industry practice as we have already seen with unit labelling, pregnancy, Drinkaware and responsibility messages,” Lambert added.

“It also shows a significant acceleration in progress has been made in updating labelling to include the latest UK CMO guidance on low-risk drinking meaning that the industry is voluntarily delivering clear information and on track to near universal adherence without recourse to valuable parliamentary time.”

In August 2020, the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) released a report claiming the CMO guidelines remain absent from more than 70% of alcohol containers across the UK. The report was considered to be “utter nonsense” and based on outdated information by the Portman Group.

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