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Liver charity calls for compulsory unit labels on alcohol

A liver charity has called on the Government to make unit labels on alcohol mandatory following a report on alcohol misuse published today.

The British Liver Trust voiced its concern over the report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which showed that 40per cent of people were unaware of sensible drinking guidelines and 77per cent did not know how many units were contained in a large glass of wine.

The report also pointed out that by July 2008 only three per cent of alcohol packaging complied fully with the voluntary labelling guidelines.

Tory MP Edward Leigh, PAC chairman, said: “Too many people are drinking too much. In England, nearly a third of all men and a fifth of all women are regularly drinking more than the official guidelines say they should.

“In doing so, many are on course to damaging their health and general wellbeing

“The burden on local health services is of course huge, with the rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions climbing sharply and accident and emergency (A&E) departments flooded on weekend nights with drink-associated injury cases.”

The charity said it wants to see health warnings similar to those found on cigarette packets introduced to the packaging of alcoholic drinks.

Alison Rogers, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: “Voluntary regulation simply hasn’t worked.

“The drinks industry has had more than 10 years to introduce voluntary labelling: the Government must make unit labels mandatory.

“We would like to see labels similar to those on cigarette packets where there would be no confusion about the health impact alcohol can have.

“The direct result of not including unit labels is that people are not able to make an informed judgement about the level of their drinking.

“With the UK seeing some of the worst levels of liver disease in Europe, the failure to take action is inexcusable.”

The British Liver Trust added that there was a clear correlation between the growing tide of health damage and cheap, easily available alcohol.

It backs the introduction of a minimum price per unit, as outlined by the chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson, earlier this year.

Ms Rogers added: “We need better public information, the banning of excessively cheap alcohol and a national strategy to deal with the escalating burden of liver disease.”

Health minister Ann Keen said: “More than two thirds of primary care trusts are tackling alcohol as a priority.

“We have invested £10 million in the Know Your Limits campaign, which arms people with the facts about the number of units in different drinks.

“The campaign also targets 18 to 24-year-old drinkers and challenges public acceptability of drunkenness and binge drinking.”

The British Liver Trust is Britain’s only national liver disease charity for adults. It works to improve the lives of people suffering from liver disease through education, support and research.

source: The Independent

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