Government is getting an unexpected partner in the fight against non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and the promotion of responsible drinking – the drinks industry, officials said today.
The West Indies Rum and Spirit Association (WIRSPA) and the recently formed Barbados Alcohol Industry Association announced on Tuesday that a major initiative would be launched to encourage people to consume alcoholic beverages more responsibly.
At a reception at the Mount Gay Visitors Centre to announce the initiative, WIRSPA member Raphael Grisoni, the Managing Director of Mount Gay Distilleries Limited, said that a major part of the initiative would include the relabeling of products and the introduction of pictograms.
He told journalists: “We always write on the back label ‘drink responsibly’ but we want to go beyond that. There are three areas – we identified a clear logo, a pictogram that shows that you cannot drink and drive, the second is that you cannot drink while you are pregnant and the third pictogram is that you cannot drink under the legal drinking age.
“These three pictograms will be implemented as fast as possible on the back label of all Caribbean rum and spirit products. It is an original initiative and of course Barbados, with four distilleries on the island, will play its role.”
He said with people increasingly reading the labels on products before they consume them, he believed that was a good way to get the message across.
Grisoni said: “Probably the next step will be on the drinking and driving and making sure that all stakeholders are involved on this particular topic.
“So this is very clear for us. We have to promote responsible drinking. We have to educate people and show that abusing alcohol is harmful for your health and also in the case of driving. And I really hope that the law that was passed… for the breathalyzer will be implemented soon. That also will help to control the people who want to drive under the influence.”
Grisoni said while he expected the initiative to have an impact on profits, it was not something industry players were overly concerned about.
He said: “It will impact our sales but I don’t mind because I don’t want consumers to be intoxicated by heavy doses of any alcoholic products. It is not the aim of our company. Maybe it is shocking for some thinking, ‘wow, how could it be that a rum producer is taking this position?’ But it is all about sustainability. You still want to have a generation enjoying your product responsibly.”
Chief Executive Officer of WIRSPA, Vaughn Renwick, said the promotion of responsible drinking and the fight against NCDs were very important issues for rum and spirits producers just as they were for governments in the region.
Renwick said: “Non-communicable diseases are a massive cost to governments and the harmful use of alcohol plays a role in the incidents of non-communicable diseases.
“We have an imperative to work among ourselves and regulate ourselves better and improve communication to consumers and also to support government efforts and work hand in-hand with stakeholders to improve the situation.”
Welcoming the move, Minister of Foreign Trade Sandra Husbands said it was a testimony to the industry’s commitment to health and well-being of customers and partners.
She said it also demonstrated that the private and public sectors could work hand-in-hand to achieve a common goal.
Husbands said: “I challenge other industries to establish similar structures in order to provide support to the governments and the region in efforts to advance and articulate your interests and concerns in different fora.