Tensions have been steadily rising between the two groups as charities clamber for minimum unit pricing and a ban on alcohol ads while the trade fights back through its own lobbyists.
But Andrew Langford told OLN: “We need to stop arguing, going back and forth. It’s not about bashing anybody. We need to work together to encourage people to get healthy.
“It’s about listening to one another. I think the health lobby and the drinks industry can learn a lot from each other.”
Langford was speaking at the launch of the Love Your Liver campaign, run in conjunction with Halewood’s alcohol-free wine Eisberg, which will see a team tour Morrisons supermarkets testing shoppers for liver disease.
“Working with Halewood has shown me it’s possible to work collaboratively and make change,” said Langford. “It was a brave step for Halewood to get involved.
“It’s also a forward-thinking step for Morrisons to allow us to use its car parks to do our screening. I would like to see other supermarkets get involved.”
Liver disease is the UK’s fifth-biggest killer but it is showing an upward curve and Langford warned it will become the biggest killer within a generation if nothing is done. He wants retailers to help by giving more space to low-alcohol and alcohol-free products.
“We have an increasing culture of people who will drink a bottle of wine per night,” he said. “We’re not trying to demonise alcohol. We’re not about abstinence.
“More space for lower-alcohol products would help people get over their anxieties about what to drink.
“Things such as the dine in for £10 meal deals should offer a better alcohol- free alternative to wine.”
Langford wants to see calorie labels on alcohol products, and to see unit labels replaced with something clearer.
“The majority of the population don’t know what units are,” he said. “It would be more useful to say how much of a product is a safe amount to drink. That’s going to have complications because it’s only one-third of a bottle of wine.
“I am not naïve. I know that’s not going to help sales and it’s a big ask, but my dealings with the alcohol industry are that they don’t want a nation of drunkards. Healthiness increases the longevity of their customers.”
A liver test used to take an entire day in hospital, but advances in technology mean you can simply lie back, have some gel rubbed on your rib cage and an ultrasound will tell you within two minutes whether or not you have liver disease.The Love Your Liver team will be in selected Morrisons supermarkets from January performing the test. Halewood and the British Liver Trust have urged more retailers to sign up for future campaigns.