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Portfolio Health

and educate the consumers about alcohol and reduce the harm done by alcohol, and that information has to be provided by public health authorities,” she said. As part of the debate, Eurocare produced

a mock-up of what a label including this information could look like. “We had an enormous discussion about

what we should put on the mock-up. Should we have it informative, more like the suggestions from the Victorians in Australia, in many ways like we would want it. Or should we be more pragmatic and go for what we thought we could get,” said Skar. In the end they chose the pragmatic

approach, including information about ingredients, calorie content, a picture advising women not to drink during pregnancy and a warning that alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer. However, even this restrained version provoked a strong reaction. Luxembourg MEP Astrid Lulling called the mock-up “extreme”. “You cannot prevent an alcoholic who doesn’t want to stop by putting a label on the bottle and anybody who is reasonable knows that excessive consumption of alcohol is bad. And if a pregnant woman doesn’t know that she shouldn’t drink then she is irresponsible and you cannot prevent her from drinking by putting a little sign on a bottle. So I think you should not be as extreme in asking for warning labelling on agricultural products like wine and beer and spirits because it is heavily regulated and very informative and I think that is certainly enough for those products.” Moreover, she said the warning messages selected do not tell the whole story. “Tere are also scientific studies, and years

ago they were presented to the Parliament, very serious studies that show that moderate drinking of wine, for example, is good for prevention against heart diseases, cancer and dementia. If you want to label harms, are you ready to label what is good in consumption of such alcoholic products?” While Anderson challenged Lulling’s

intervention, describing it as “riddled with so many erroneous mistakes I lost count of them,” she was not to be cajoled. “I think we shall certainly not agree

on excessive demands like I see here. Tey don’t bring anything and they are counterproductive also, in many ways. I think what we should do and what also producers of alcohol should do, I’m a member of the beer club of this Parliament, and I’ve been at their conferences where they launched a big campaign on information on excessive alcohol consumption and other producers

Example of wine labelling

are doing it too, and I think we need more information like that and in schools also, but warning labels, no, not in the European Union.” However, Sheron said the intervention

was worth paying attention to as it showed how far the debate over alcohol labelling has yet to go. “It shows where we are with alcohol

because these are the arguments that the tobacco lobby used to use and it shows that really, with alcohol, we are really still somewhere in the mid-1960s where people were still saying cigarettes don’t cause cancer. Actually, people used to say cigarettes were good for your health, that was back in the 1930s I have to say, so maybe we are somewhere between the 1930s and 1960s. So we really do have a long way to go.” Indeed, last summer MEPs rejected

an obligation to include nutritional declarations on alcoholic beverages. Te European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety voted to exclude alcoholic beverages from the mandatory nutritional declaration requirement on the provision on food information to consumers. While there will be a requirement on the commission to review the provisions and report on alcohol labelling, this will not be for five years. While this may seem a long way off, the

time could be put to good use, as before they can seek to persuade the public of the inherent dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, they must first win over the politicians, Sheron pressed. “Te political views you heard there

[Lulling] are representative of a proportion, and I suspect a significant proportion, of extremely misinformed people and we do need to make sure we are all talking from the same book here and the actual facts get out. I don’t think the facts are there, in fact I’m absolutely certain that they are not, and that is something for all of us, I think, that is a really important step because we can’t expect politicians to make sensible decisions if they don’t believe the facts.”


TB Action Plan An action plan to help tackle an increasing rate of tuberculosis in Scotland has been published by the Scottish Government. Public Health Minister Shona Robison said: “Many people think of tuberculosis as a disease of yesteryear but that’s no longer true. In recent years we have started to see a small but important increase in the incidence of TB. Scotland has played a significant part in tackling TB in the past and this action plan aims to address the situation we face now.”

Obesity tracker Progress on tackling obesity will be monitored by a number of markers, such as reducing the number of car journeys to schools and increasing the number of adults doing at least half an hour of physical activity a day, the Scottish Government has said. A report on progress will be published by the Scottish Government in 2013.

“Obesity kills thousands of people every year and blights the lives of many others with illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. “It’s time for change and for bold measures. No country in the world has successfully addressed obesity – and we want Scotland to be the first,” Public Health and Sport Minister Shona Robison said.

Monklands A&E Labour have given an “absolute guarantee”, if elected, to protect the future of A&E departments at Monklands and Ayr Hospitals.

“I know how much communities value local services and I am making an absolute guarantee that if I become First Minister the A&E departments at Monklands and Ayr will have a secure future,” Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said. However, the SNP called the announcement “bizarre”, pointing out that it was former Labour Health Minister Andy Kerr who had planned to close the A&E departments when Labour was last in government in Scotland. “The only party who threatened to shut Monklands A&E was the Labour Party and there is no threat to its existence from politicians except the Labour Party,” said Alex Neil MSP.

Telehealthcare funding Scotland’s telehealthcare sector is to be boosted by a £10m investment over four years, as part of a joint project between the Scottish Government and the Technology Strategy Board. The Scottish Assisted Living Demonstrator programme will involve at least 10,000 older people and people with disabilities. Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland has made “significant progress” in developing and expanding new technologies to help people live independently at home.

28 March 2011 Holyrood 41

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