Retailers have signed an “unprecedented” agreement on the sale of alcohol at stores across the UK, as industry leaders claimed a proposed crackdown on booze by Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham flew in the face of increasingly effective action on the issue.

The new best practice guidance, produced under the Responsibility Deal, is the first time retailers have agreed on a common set of principles for retailing of alcohol, covering measures to tackle underage drinking, common procedures on in-store promotion, and guidance on home deliveries.

Backed by all the major supermarkets and the association of Convenience Stores, it is being billed as a retail equivalent to the supplier-led Portman Code, although the document lacks the self-regulatory mechanisms and subsequent teeth of the Portman Code Bulletin Alerts.

Included in the agreement are pledges by retailers to ban cross-promotion of alcohol with products designed to appeal to children, not to promote booze with hangover cures and a commitment to include clear unit content labelling. It also calls on retailers to consider displaying further age restricted sales warnings, Drinkaware or unit awareness information in store, and to place alcohol responsibly in store with “due regard for its location and proximity to other products”.

Retailers have pledged to make low alcohol beers, wines and cider available in larger stores and the guide includes new advice for retailers operating home delivery in how to train staff on initiatives such as Challenge 25.

“We hope this moves retailers close to universal high standards and ever-increasing responsibility in alcohol retail,” said Hardish Purewal, head of licensing at Tesco, and chair of the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group, which published the guide.

After the much-anticipated announcements by Labour today, a proposed crackdown on alcohol looks set to be one of the issue on public health that could divide Labour and the Tories. Burnham called for health to be made a licensing objective in a move which would hand sweeping new powers to local directors of public health to help draft licensing agreements.

He has also promised to explore new measures to crack down on high strength alcohol, including a possible ban on strong cheap ciders sold in three litre bottles, having accused products such as Frosty Jacks and White Ace of fuelling teen drinking.

But the WSTA said Burnham’s message that under-age drinking was a growing public health issue flew in the face of the facts, including government statistics showing the proportion of pupils who had tried an alcoholic drink had dropped from 55% in 2006 to 39% in 2013 and figures showing the average consumption for 16-24 year olds had fallen from 14.6 units per week in 2006 to just 11.1 units in 2012, outstripping the overall fall in drinking in the UK.

Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group, said Burnham’s plans were outdated.

“We must move on from the old politics of one-size-fits-all policies which antagonise voters and responsible businesses and do nothing to redress the imbalance of health harms across the country,” he said.

“The number of children drinking in this country is declining at an extraordinary rate – down 34% in the last decade.  Life skills education, strict enforcement on underage sales and robust ID schemes are essential  – all of which are fully supported, funded and championed by the drinks industry.

“As a country we’re making excellent progress and the youngest generation is leading the way. We must build on this positive change by working in partnership, not by imposing costly red tape.”

He also hailed the drinks industry’s achievement of taking a billion units of alcohol out of the market, a pledge by retailers and some suppliers limiting the number of units of alcohol in single serve cans and voluntarily labelling 80% of products with health information

“Labour are proposing to spend taxpayers money and valuable government time legislating for something industry are already doing voluntarily,” he said.