USW research finds health information on alcohol labels is “out of sight, out of mind”

Alcohol labelling research with Alcohol Concern. Neil Gibson. August 2018

A new study has found that alcohol companies are putting health information on their products in places where drinkers are least likely to see them.

The study, by the University of South Wales (USW) and funded by the charity formed by the merger of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK, showed that key information about unit content, low-risk drinking advice, and warnings about drinking whilst pregnant, were found to be routinely placed on the sides and backs of bottles and cans – yet, few consumers look at these parts of alcohol packaging.

USW researchers used innovative digital eye-tracker technology to record what people viewed when searching supermarket alcohol shelves, and found that they rarely looked beyond the front labels. When shoppers did look more closely, they often found information poorly-placed, such as on bottle necks or written in small fonts, making it hard to read.

Alcohol Concern / Alcohol Research UK is proposing significant changes to alcohol labels, such as the mandatory requirement to include unit content and health information on the front of all alcoholic products in order to help consumers make informed decisions about their health.

Alcohol labelling research with Alcohol Concern. Neil Gibson. August 2018Bev John, Professor of Addictions & Health Psychology at USW, and one of the study’s lead researchers, said,

“Price and brand name appear to be the primary considerations for shoppers when purchasing alcohol, whereas health information isn’t looked at in any great detail. One reason may be that this information is positioned on the side or reverse labels where consumers only briefly look, if at all.

"The participants in our study were generally critical of the design of current labels as a means of delivering health information, although most were unsure about whether improved labels would actually change their drinking behaviours.”

 Andrew Misell, the charity’s Director in Wales, said: “The drinks industry states that the majority of bottles and cans now carry unit and health information for consumers; but that’s no help if it’s placed where nobody looks, or if it’s unclear or hard to read. Given the known risks of overusing alcohol, the drinks industry has a clear duty to make sure its customers have the information they need to make healthy decisions about their drinking. 

"At present, the front-of-product labels that consumers look at most often carry the information the producers hope will make us buy the product. The facts that could help us make an informed choice are out of sight and out of mind.”

 

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