WSTA comments on CMO Guidelines

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association comments on new guidelines on alcohol consumption from the Chief Medical Officer.

WSTA Chief Executive Miles Beale said: "The UK has seen a significant drop in alcohol consumption through the effective working partnership between the government and the drinks industry, including reproducing - voluntarily - CMO guidelines on labels. This partnership approach successfully influenced consumer behaviour. 

“20 years after the original guidelines all labelling advice is out of date overnight. We are disappointed that the guidelines are expected to come in with immediate effect and that government's industry partners have not been involved in any consultation."

Miles Beale said: “We note the first changes to the Chief Medical Officer's guidelines for 20 years. 

“We will now review the scientific evidence that has led to the suggested changes - some of which establish a new international precedent. 

“As is well documented we have seen significant successes in changing consumer behaviour through the Responsibility Deal, including an almost 19% drop in alcohol consumption in the UK over ten years. This has been achieved by government, industry and the public health community working together.

"20 years after the original guidelines were issued, and following a two year wait, we are surprised that the guidelines are expected to take effect immediately. Given the significant progress made voluntarily through the Responsibility Deal we are disappointed that the industry has not been involved.

“The drinks industry working with government has voluntarily exceeded an 80% target delivering the current CMO guidelines on alcohol labelling. This was achieved ahead of schedule and at no public cost. This labelling advice is out of date overnight. 

“We look forward to talking to government about the changes, the evidence and guidelines in due course. 

“Importantly, changes to the guidelines will not automatically lead to changes in consumer behaviour. It will be vital to explain to the public why the advice has changed and why it is different to advice in other EU countries - so that they are not confused by new guidance." 

The Chief Medical Officers' guideline says men and women who drink are safest not to drink regularly more than 14 units per week, to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level.  

If you do drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread this evenly over 3 days or more. 

If you have one or two heavy drinking sessions, you increase your risks of death from long term illnesses and from accidents and injuries. 

The risk of developing a range of illnesses (including, for example, cancers of the mouth, throat and breast) increases with any amount you drink on a regular basis. 

If you wish to cut down the amount you're drinking, a good way to help achieve this is to have several drink-free days each week.

While a fuller consultation on new guidelines was promised, the actual consultation will now only take views on whether the guidelines are clear and easy to understand.

The changes in the guidelines will impact on alcohol labelling in the UK, of which 80% already includes the existing CMO guidelines, and the WSTA will update you on developments regarding this in due course.

The full details of the consultation can be found here:


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