Supermarkets 'distorted' scientific findings on alcohol

 

Leading supermarkets and drinks companies distorted evidence in an attempt to prevent the Scottish Government introducing a minimum price for alcohol, researchers say.

Academics from the London School of Hygiene and the University of York examined 27 submissions by the alcohol industry to the Scottish Government's consultation. They claim the industry "ignored, misrepresented and undermined" the scientific evidence.

Tesco, Asda and the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) were among organisations that sowed doubt about the Scottish Government's plans, questioning the evidence on which they were based and citing small, poorly carried-out surveys suggesting they would not curb problem drinking, according to the academics.

Tesco claimed there was "little evidence" to support the impact of prices on consumption, while the WSTA cited a small trial that contained "weak evidence" in support of its counter-view, the researchers say. Asda claimed that minimum pricing would create a black market in alcohol sales. The Portman Group, an alcohol industry-funded organisation which promotes responsible drinking, even warned that restricting sales could create a "mystique" around alcohol, turning it into a more desirable "forbidden fruit".

Dr Jim McCambridge, who led the study published in PLOS Medicine, said: "There is a broad consensus internationally among researchers that the most effective measures to control problems caused by alcohol are to raise the price, control availability and restrict marketing activities. However, our study shows that key players in the alcohol industry constructed doubt about this wealth of scientific evidence and instead chose to promote weak, survey-based evidence, as well as making unsubstantiated claims to their advantage."

But their attempts to derail the Scottish plan failed and the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012, banning the sale of alcohol below 50p a unit was passed in May last year, although it is now being challenged in the courts.

The academics fear that drinks producers and retailers may have used the same methods to stave off attempts to introduce a minimum price in England during the Home Office's consultation on the issue.

A minimum price for alcohol has been backed by David Cameron but now looks set to be dropped amid reports of a cabinet split.

Unlike in Scotland, not all the submissions to the English consultation are publicly accessible, raising "concerns over the alcohol industry's ongoing involvement in alcohol policy-making for England and Wales", the researchers say.

A spokesperson for the Portman Group said: "Our 2008 response is published in full on our website and does not misrepresent anything. In it, we say that public policy should focus on tackling the irresponsible elements of our drinking culture and not penalise the majority of moderate, responsible drinkers who are doing the right thing."

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said: "It is disappointing that this study fails to recognise the good work being delivered by the drinks trade, health community and Government working in partnership, as it seeks to deny the trade from contributing to the debate."

Tesco and Asda referred requests for comment to the WSTA.

Tesco claimed there was 'little evidence' to support the impact of prices on consumption

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower