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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 12:06 GMT
Call for unit labelling on alcohol
Labels should say how many units wine bottles contain
Labels should say how many units wine bottles contain
Campaigners are calling for mandatory labelling on wine bottles and beer cans to tell people how many units of alcohol they contain.

Alcohol Concern says the move would enable people to know how much they are drinking, and to control their intake.

It fears stronger drinks and larger glasses mean drinkers can no longer rely on the received wisdom that half a pint equals one unit.

Alcohol Concern wants to see the current voluntary labelling scheme replaced with a compulsory one.

Everybody would be able to be sure how much they were drinking

Eric Appleby, Alcohol Concern
Eric Appleby of Alcohol Concern, told BBC Radio 5 Live the failure of the voluntary scheme could be seen just by going into an off licence.

"If you're going to have this, you've got to make it mandatory."

He added: "The difference this would make is that everybody would be able to be sure how much they were drinking."

He said the current system of measuring units had been adopted about 15 years ago, and was now outdated.

"In those days, a pint of beer would about 3 to 3.5% - now it could be up to 8%."


The official daily limits for alcohol units are two to three for a woman and three to four for a man.

But it can be hard to know how many units are in a can of beer or bottle of wine.

There are ways of working it out. For example, the number of units in a bottle of wine can be discovered by multiplying the volume by the percentage.

Mr Appleby said: "It's hard enough to remember that, but if you've got to do a complicated calculation to work out how much you've drunk, that makes it very difficult.

"Having the number of units on the label would certainly make that a bit easier."

He said the move would not make people cut down, but it would enable those who wanted to curb their drinking to do it more easily.

But David Poley of drinks industry body the Portman Group said the problem with making the labelling scheme compulsory was that EU regulations said units could not be included on wine labels.

He said: "I think the drinks industry is doing the right thing by adopting the voluntary scheme."

Mr Poley said well over half of the bottles of whisky, vodka and rum were labelled, along with over a third of ciders and a significant number of lagers and beers.

See also:

15 Oct 01 | Health
Alcohol fight goes into schools
14 Aug 00 | Health
Binge drinking 'can damage brain'
12 May 00 | Health
Britain's big booze binge
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