More NGOs planning to turn backs on Responsibility Deal

Alcohol harm: “Voluntary deals are almost worthless”

More NGO members are threatening to walk out on the government’s Responsibility Deal, claiming they are disillusioned with progress made by food and drink companies.

Organisations including the Faculty of Public health, Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum announced last week they were quitting following the government’s decision to drop minimum unit pricing.

This week, a string of other non-industry members told The Grocer they were now considering their position and that recent u-turns on booze and plain packaging had been the final straw.

“I think the Responsibility Deal is dead in the water,” said Dr John Middleton, vice president of the Faculty of Public Health. “One of the claims of the Deal was that it would deliver more rapid progress than legislation, but we think on virtually every measure it has failed to deliver.”

The group, along with other NGOs, would now “lobby much harder for regulation” on areas including minimum pricing, cigarette packaging and sugar levels in food, Middleton said.

A member of the Deal’s core alcohol group, who is thinking of resigning, added: “I’m quite sure the consensus of thinking among people who want to make a difference to alcohol harm is that these voluntary deals are almost completely worthless.”

However, one industry member of the alcohol core group attacked the NGOs for “political posturing”. “They know full well that minimum pricing was never part of the deal. This is all about manoeuvring to try to put more pressure on the government.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “We are disappointed that these health organisations have withdrawn but product pricing and tobacco control have never been part of the Deal’s work.”