Forced health warnings a step closer for alcohol

A backbench bill calling for compulsory health warnings on alcoholic products has had its first reading in the House of Lords.

The bill, tabled by Labour peer Lord Mitchell, would make it a legal requirement for drinks manufacturers to put a health warning for pregnant women on drinks packaging, worded: "Government warning: drinking alcoholic beverages during pregnancy, even in small quantities, can have serious consequences for the health of the baby."

Wine & Spirit Trade Association parliamentary and policy executive Alex Tottenham said: " The majority of backbench bills get no further than this and are unlikely to become law . We are trying to establish what levels of support this bill has and will keep an eye on its progress."

Mitchell, who works closely with the National Organisation on Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, has been heavily critical of the alcohol industry in the past. In a House of Lords debate in 2004 he said alcohol suppliers would "do well to study what has happened to the not too dissimilar tobacco industry and to draw the lessons". Mitchell said he would like to see the alcohol companies "behaving as responsible citizens, alerting their customers to the dangers, whil e balancing the fun and enjoyment that comes from sensible and informed drinking".

Sainsbury's is adding warnings for pregnant women to the back of its own-label drinks. The labels will warn shoppers to seek medical advice on alcohol and pregnancy. They will also show daily unit advice, as well as the unit content of the product per glass and per bottle.