Stores may have to display health information

The government has launched a consultation on a proposed new mandatory code of practice on alcohol sales and promotion for both the on and off-trade.

The proposals recommend that retailers be forced to display information on the alcohol units of drinks they sell and on the health impacts of alcohol.

But the plans stop short of a minimum pricing regime suggested by chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson, though they do call for further research into the issue.

Failure to comply with the new code could result in the loss of a licence, or maximum penalties of a £20,000 fine and six months in prison.

Councils will be given extra power to deal with social disorder in “hotspots” where two or more retailers are deemed to contribute to problems.

These will include a ban on “irresponsible bulk buy promotions” and compulsory use of Challenge 21.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the proposed new rules were not designed to stop the “vast majority of people who enjoy a drink responsibly from doing so”.

She added: “It is not about penalising the majority who trade responsibly, but the government has a duty to tackle this issue which affects us all.”

Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, said: “With businesses facing falling sales in the middle of a recession, a further set of rules and regulations which add to the day-to-day costs is hardly welcome.

“We support this objective but need to be clear that these proposals don’t just add more bureaucracy to responsible businesses and unduly punish the majority of responsible consumers.”