Reducing harm caused by alcohol

Improved labelling

Voluntary labelling isn’t working

Alcohol labelling in the UK has been consistently found to be lacking. For example, no alcohol products display health warnings, and the majority still do not show the current low-risk drinking guidelines, despite being updated in 2016.

This lack of product information and health messaging on alcoholic drinks comes down to the fact there are currently no mandatory rules for alcohol labelling. Instead, information is provided on a voluntary basis.

Mandatory alcohol labelling must be introduced

The Scottish Government are prepared to consider pursuing a mandatory approach in Scotland if industry progress is inadequate. This is a key opportunity to ensure that people are given the information they need to make informed choices at the point of purchase, as is the case with food and other drinks.

AFS is building the evidence on alcohol labelling to inform the next steps of the Scottish Government.  This will show a clear need for mandatory labelling and to make the industry accountable for what information is on their products.

For consumers to make an informed choice, alcohol labels need to provide clear product and health information

Providing information via alcohol labels is a key means for people to access health information and advice at the point when they are choosing whether and what to purchase:

  • Health warnings on alcoholic drinks would increase awareness of the health risks associated with drinking, which is worryingly low.
  • Unit information and the low-risk drinking guidelines would help people track their alcohol consumption and increase awareness of the advice for regular drinkers to not exceed 14 units of alcohol a week to keep their health risks low
  • A warning not to drink when pregnant or trying to conceive would provide clarity to women around the dangers of alcohol in pregnancy, such as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders (FASD)
  • Displaying the calorie content would help us understand better how much of our calorie intake comes from alcohol (which is often quite significant), and would be particularly helpful for those of us who are watching our weight.
  • Checking a list of ingredients is the only way that people with more uncommon allergies can know whether it’s safe for them to consume a drink or not

Want to know more?

Watch the Panorama documentary with Adrian Chiles in ‘Britain’s Drink Problem’ (aired June 2019)

If you're interested in this topic and want to find out more please contact Nicola Merrin, Senior Coordinator (Policy and Research).