BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 12:39 GMT
Alcohol warnings 'must be clearer'
The number of units in an "alcopop" is not always clear
The current way that drinkers can find out how much alcohol they are consuming is deeply flawed, says a watchdog.

The Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin wants the government to force manufacturers and pubs to clearly display the number of units on every drink container - even a pint glass.

The call comes after the Chief Medical Officer's "State of the Nation's Health" report warned that liver cirrhosis deaths were soaring - mainly due to increased alcohol intake.

The government must introduce mandatory, bold unit labelling on all alcoholic drinks containers

Joe Collier, Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin
Women in particular are drinking more than in previous years.

The report suggested that health warnings - similar to those on tobacco packets - might be needed in future.

Official health warnings tell drinkers not to exceed a set number of "units" of alcohol a week or day.

Men are not supposed to exceed 21 units a week, and four in any one day, and women are not supposed to have more than 14 units in a week, and three in a day.

Alcopop uncertainty

One unit roughly equates to a small glass of wine (125ml) which is 8% alcohol, half a pint of normal strength beer, or one measure of spirits.

Young people drinking and smoking
Are they counting their units?
However, Joe Collier, the editor of Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin, says that the popularity of higher strength beers, ready-mixed "alcopops" and the tendency of many bars and pubs to serve wine in larger glasses, is making it difficult for consumers to keep track of their intake.

Many wines are now 12% to 14% by volume, adding to the alcohol in one glass, he said.

'Clear, reliable information'

He said: "The current 'unit of alcohol' rule is misleading and unreliable.

"In order to follow sensible drinking advice, especially prevalent in the run-up to Christmas, people need clear, reliable information on the unit content.

"The government must introduce mandatory, bold unit labelling on all alcoholic drinks containers."

The wide variations in the strengths of beers and wines may also cause consumers problems as they try to gauge whether it is safe to drive.

The Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin is published by the Consumers' Assocation.

See also:

29 Oct 01 | Health
Cirrhosis 'could be blocked'
15 Oct 01 | Health
Alcohol fight goes into schools
05 Oct 01 | Health
Online drink counselling service
17 May 01 | Health
Huge rise in liver cancer deaths
10 Dec 01 | Health
Death warning to young drinkers
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories