Labour ‘anti-social’ claims over caffeinated drinks challenged


by G.A.Ponsonby

Labour party claims that the caffeine content in alcoholic drinks can lead to anti-social behaviour and violence have been challenged by a leading drinks firm.

The manufacturers of Buckfast Tonic Wine have hit out at Labour’s manifesto which pledges to limit the permitted levels of caffeine in pre-mixed alcoholic drinks.

The Labour party claims the substance has been linked to anti-social behaviour and violence.  Labour is committed to introducing a limit on caffeine content that would see the drink banned.

However, Jim Wilson, Scottish manager of bottling firm, J Chandler & Co, disputed Labour claims and argued that there were other products more deserving of attention that Labour were ignoring.

Mr Wilson said: “This is discriminatory and demonising our product, Buckfast Tonic Wine.

“There is more serious crime committed by people who drink vodka so, therefore, why are the Labour Party not tackling a product which has more serious implications than caffeinated alcohol?”

He added: “What do they think it is in alcohol that is causing the problem?  I suggest it is alcohol.

“Our product has been in the market place for 80 years and there have been no reported deaths as a result of its consumption.  It is, in fact, the overconsumption of alcohol that is the danger and not the drink – no matter what brand of alcohol it is and it is the person who is consuming the product who is responsible for their actions.”

Mr Wilson highlighted the fact that Buckfast did not advertise or promote its product in Scotland and challenged what he described as “shocking caffeine content” claims pointing out that simple painkillers contain more caffeine than a glass of the tonic wine.

A Labour amendment to the Scottish Government’s Alcohol Bill to restrict the caffeine content of alcoholic drinks to no more than 150 milligrammes per litre of alcohol was recently defeated in the Scottish Parliament.

Critics of Labour’s proposal include police chiefs who have claimed that it is alcohol abuse that is the problem and not caffeinated drinks.

Mr Wilson said he welcomed the new legislation contained in the Alcohol Bill that will ban irresponsible drink promotions at off-licences and include the introduction in future of a “social responsibility fee” on retailers who sell alcohol.

On minimum pricing, he said Buckfast was above the minimum unit price of alcohol which proved the company was already acting in a responsible manner.  Labour had joined with the Tories and the LibDems in order to block the SNP’s minimum pricing proposal.

Mr Wilson explained that J Chandler & Co, as a company, are heavily involved in major youth projects throughout Scotland to help young people with job applications and sporting activities and suggested that Scotland’s drinking culture needed to be the focus of Labour’s attention.

He added: “Over the past 11 years we have contributed over £1.3million to St Andrew’s Hospice in Airdrie to help with care of the terminally ill, their families and relatives.

Perhaps the focus should be turned on why people are behaving in an antisocial manner in the first place and what steps are being taken by the appropriate authorities to deal with those who are misbehaving.

The drink culture in Scotland needs to be addressed through a series of educational and social measures rather than laying the blame at any single brand of alcohol.”