The government has slammed retailers for not doing enough to prevent sales of alcohol to underage consumers.

Home Office figures just released show that, during the government's summer campaign monitoring sales of booze to under-18s, retailers failed to improve on Christmas test purchasing figures. According to the statistics, targeted shops had failed 21% of test purchasing visits in the latest campaign.

Shaun Woodward, licen­sing minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "Too many supermarkets, bars, clubs and pubs continue to sell alcohol to under-18s. This is not acceptable."

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: "We are disappointed that there has been little change in the results. We must aim for a further reduction in failures."

However, Lowman also defended retailers, saying the data showed improvement since summer 2004, when the off-trade failed 31% of visits. He said: "What is pleasing is that the marked improvement is reflected across all parts of the off-licence sector."

In the supermarket sector, Kwik Save and Somerfield failed test purchasing visits most often, with failure rates of 26% and 22% respectively.

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