A new supermarket labelling scheme being piloted in the North and Scotland in a bid to curb binge drinking was welcomed tonight.
It is aimed at helping buyers understand the alcohol content of the drinks they are buying before taking the drink from the supermarket shelf.
Sainsbury’s today launched a pilot scheme in 36 stores in the two regions which, if successful, could be rolled out to all stores across the UK.
The on-shelf signage showing the exact number of units in each of the range of alcoholic drinks on sale is designed to help customers easily understand how many units are in the bottles and cans they are taking home.
Warren Anderson, beer, wines and spirits manager at Sainsbury’s, said: “Research has shown that less than 50% of consumers know the recommended daily alcohol intake for men and women.
“As such we recognise how important it is for us to continue to communicate and educate our customers about ’units’ and responsible consumption.”
The North's Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said since his appointment he had become increasingly concerned about the high level of alcohol consumption in society.
Alcohol and licensed trades had a key role to play in helping address the issue of binge drinking, said Mr McGimpsey, who has been meeting with major supermarkets in recent months.
“In August I met with Justin King, the chief executive of Sainsbury’s, to discuss what they could do to help in the fight against excessive drinking.
“I was very encouraged by that meeting, and am delighted that Sainsbury’s has responded by introducing the new pilot scheme which will help to educate people about the amount of alcohol they are drinking by providing practical information on units and measures.
“I hope this will challenge people about the amount of alcohol they are drinking.”
Throwing down the gauntlet to Tesco, Asda and Morrisons, the minister added: “I would challenge the other major supermarkets to look now at what they can do to help tackle this important issue.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said: “Research has shown that many people do not know the safe limits of alcohol intake or the number of units in the drinks they are consuming.”
He added: “Anything that can be done to better inform people about the levels of alcohol they are consuming is to be welcomed.
“I commend the step Sainsbury’s have taken and would encourage other retailers to follow suit.”
Sainsbury’s will run the pilot scheme for six months before deciding whether to go nationwide.