Saturday, 25 July 2015


I have recently commented on historic and well documented poor health statistics for Hyndburn which have been reported on in the local press.

People are dying unnecessarily - or suffering chronic ill health as a result - from smoking, heavy drinking, fatty food and sugar. People are being hoodwinked into the attractiveness or cheapness of these products.

What hurts me personally is seeing parents in supermarkets with cheap fatty food whilst purchasing cigarettes and or alcohol. Moralising isn't the answer but tackling the food and drink industry is. However we have weak prime minister who is unable and unwilling to do anything about it.


35 Swanage Road

London SW18 2DZ

Tel: 07769 745281

Dear Mr Jones,

Over the last twenty years, wine has become ever stronger. As a 2011 study of 80,000 wines from across the globe by the American Association of Wine Economists reveals, the average bottle was around 10% more alcoholic in 2011 than in 1992.

It's a big shift. And while the reasons behind it might be understandable - climate change with warmer, sunnier countries making wine, improvements in technology and viticulture - that doesn't mean they are desirable - or unavoidable. 

Another consequence of stronger wines is to be seen in British waistlines. According to UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, one in four Brits is obese; three times as many as 50 years ago. Approximately 10% of the calories consumed by the average adult comes from alcohol. Two large pub glasses of 14.5% red wine represent around a sixth of the the ideal calorie intake for the average male.

Recent research for Sainsbury's suggests that 85% of consumers are unaware of the number of calories in a glass of wine, while a YouGov study revealed that over half the respondents thought a glass of wine contained a third less calories than it did.

The tide is changing however. A growing number of British wine drinkers are increasingly aware and concerned about the ever-increasing strength of their favourite tipple. In a recent survey conducted by Wine Intelligence among UK wine drinkers, 40% of the respondents said that alcohol level is an important influence on their purchase, up from 28% in 2010. Two in three respondents to the Sainsbury's study would like to see calorie labelling on alcohol; 62% say they limit their consumption for health reasons and 44% include reduced drinking when trying to manage their weight.

The Healthy Drinking Alliance is a new lobbying body, aiming to increase awareness of the wide range of alcoholic strengths and calorie contents in wine and alcoholic beverages in general. Among its aims is the introduction of a three-tiered duty rate on wine that rewards producers making wine at a lower level of alcohol and penalises their high-strength peers.

We believe this will incentivise wine producers to move towards wines with more moderate alcohol levels, and encourage consumers - who are already warm to the idea - to drink them. We will be in regular contact with Parliament, the EU and the national media to get behind the idea because we think it's a sensible way of moderating our country's alcohol consumption, and one that will have a positive impact on two major health issues. 

A14% ABV wine has almost 100 calories more per bottle than the same wine at 12% ABV (626kCal against 542kCal). Drop the alcohol further to 8.5% and there are fewer than 400kCal in a bottle. 

Even more significant is the role that a lowering of ABV could have in addressing alcohol related health issues. This is not a way of combating extreme problem drinkers (over 50/35 units per week for men/women) but it can have a significant impact on groups of people who regularly go beyond their weekly and daily limits without even realising it. 

The Office for National Statistics estimates that a third of men, and a fifth of women, between the ages of 25 and 64 regularly surpass their approved unit intake - probably because wine is stronger than it used to be. A man, for instance, can drink two standard glasses of wine at 12% ABV and be within his daily alcohol limit of four units. But two glasses of 14.5% ABV wine - at five units - will put him over. 

Lowering the strength of wine by a few percentage points, in other words, can be an effective way of helping the population to lead healthier lives, without resorting to the controversial issue of minimum pricing.

As well as a nudge towards lower alcohol, the HDA intends to push for a more effective labelling system.

The last government's Alcohol Strategy (published March 2012) admitted that, despite years of efforts, the public's comprehension of alcohol units was still poor. We believe there is room for an easy-to-undertand, medically robust system that will quickly and easily allow the public to make a more informed choice.

We will be sending you further details about this in the autumn, but our ambition is to create a system that could be adopted across all alcohol products, Europe-wide. 

So, a better- informed population, willingly choosing healthier products and living more active, balanced lives as a result with zero cost - indeed a financial benefit - to the country as a whole.

We think this is a laudable and achievable aim, and while we will be in regular contact over the next 12 months, we would welcome any feedback from you now. 

Yours sincerely, 

Peter Darbyshire.

The Healthy Drinking Alliance - Company number 9636314
Registered Office: Devonshire House, 582 Honeypot Lane, Stanmore, Middlesex HA7 1JS