Alison Rogers, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: ‘The time for consultation is over. The alcohol industry has shown that it is not capable of acting collectively for the good of public health and the code should be mandatory and strictly enforced.
‘The government has been talking about this for over 10 years now, stalling at every opportunity, even though its own DoH-funded research showed significant non-compliance.
‘We find it disgraceful and quite incredible that the government has launched yet another round of consultation on this issue. The drinks industry has had more than enough time to get its house in order and has demonstrated very clearly that it will not do so.'
Under the voluntary agreement forged by the government in 2007 the drinks industry agreed to putting five key pieces of information on labels: unit information, pregnancy advice, a message about responsible drinking, a logo and link for Drinkaware and the NHS recommended limits.
In 2008 just 6% of labels met the standard.
Scotland's health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said that if compliance with the existing voluntary code does not improve, then mandatory labelling would be a strong option.
The RCN welcomed the launch of the UK-wide consultation. Tom Sandford, director of RCN England, said: ‘The drinks industry has failed to stick by its promise to take voluntary action on alcohol labelling. We can't afford to keep giving the industry the option not to make changes which are essential to protecting the nation's health. That is why the RCN is calling for a mandatory code which would introduce tighter regulation of the advertising, labelling and sale of alcohol.'
Editor's blog: Should the government ban 24-hour drinking? (again)