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Home > Drinking in the dark: how alcohol labelling fails consumers.

Alcohol Health Alliance UK. (2020) Drinking in the dark: how alcohol labelling fails consumers. London: Alcohol Health Alliance UK.

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In this study we reviewed a random sample of 424 alcohol containers on shop shelves in October 2019 to assess whether labels included the UK’s Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) low-risk drinking guidelines and other essential pieces of information that would allow consumers to make informed choices. 

We found:

  • More than 70% of the labels that we reviewed still did not include the official, up-to date low-risk drinking guidelines; more than three years after they were updated.
  • The industry-funded Portman Group styles itself as the alcohol industry’s “social responsibility body” and “leader in best practice” but 98% of its members’ labels reviewed in this study failed to include the correct CMOs’ low-risk drinking guidelines.
  • Nearly a quarter of the labels we surveyed contained misleading, out-of-date health information, such as the old UK guidelines or guidelines from other countries.
  • Brand name products were even less likely than supermarket own brands to display the correct low-risk guidelines.
  • Almost all (97%) labels displayed a pregnancy warning logo, but only 15% of labels included written information about the risks of drinking during pregnancy.
  • Just one of the 424 labels we surveyed featured a factual health warning to explain that alcohol consumption is harmful to health; the remainder included nothing about alcohol-related health risks.
  • Over seven in ten labels failed to list the ingredients in the product (72%).
  • More than half (56%) of labels included no nutritional information. 37% of labels listed the calories without any further information, and just 7% displayed full nutritional information including calories.
  • 73% of labels did not include a warning about drink-driving.
  • Over 92% of labels did not include a warning about drinking underage (under 18).

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