Tories to ditch 'confusing' alcohol units system

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The labels on bottles which state how many units of alcohol they contain should be scrapped in favour of something less confusing, the Conservatives say.

The call by the Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, could be converted into an election promise to standardise the labels on drink as any new system would need to be Europe-wide – but the Tories will push the idea, if they gain power, as part of a strategy for preventing ill health.

In his policy paper A Healthier Nation, published yesterday, Mr Lansley promised to "work with the drinks industry" to create a system of labelling which was easier to understand.

The drinks industry and the Government introduced a voluntary system under which all alcoholic drinks were supposed to be labelled with a unit system ten years ago.

One unit represents the alcohol content of a small measure of spirits, while a pint of super-strength beer has 5.1 units. But research shows that only just over half of the drinks on sale carry the information about units.

However, the Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, was left unimpressed yesterday, claiming that Mr Lansley's document lacked "substance".