Put calorie content on alcoholic drinks, campaigners urge

Ingredients, nutritional information and health risks are all optional and not legally required to be on the label.

Put calorie content on alcoholic drinks, campaigners urge iStock

Alcoholic drinks should have their calorie content on the label, health campaigners say.

The Alcohol Health Alliance and the Alcohol Focus Scotland charity are calling for changes to labelling laws so the calories in drinks are clearly shown.

It follows a YouGov poll that found only a quarter of people surveyed correctly estimated there are between 120 and 359 calories in a pint of lager, while 22% knew there are 67-200 calories in a medium glass of wine.

The law currently requires alcoholic products to show the strength of alcohol (ABV), the volume of the drink and any allergens contained in them. Ingredients, nutritional information and health risks are all optional.

The UK Government is planning a consultation on alcohol labelling and the coalition of health and alcohol groups are calling for more information to be mandatory on labels.

Professor Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “Alcohol labelling in this country is failing to inform consumers about what exactly their drink contains.

“Displaying basic product information, such as calorie content, empowers the consumer to make informed choices about what, and how much, they decide to drink.

“This information should be displayed clearly on the product they are buying. They should not have to research basic health information online.

“The upcoming UK consultation on calorie labelling is a great opportunity for change.

“Requiring the display of calorie content on alcoholic drinks would bring alcohol labelling in line with food and soft drink labelling and would help to address the fact that most adults in the UK do not know the calorie content of alcohol.

“But the public is entitled to know more than just calorie content. It is concerning that only 18% of the public are aware of the Chief Medical Officers’ drinking guideline.

“Including this essential health information on the label, along with other legible important health warnings and drink-drive and pregnancy warnings, would help educate the public about the risks associated with drinking and could help reduce alcohol harm by prompting behaviour change.”

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, added: “Is it any surprise that so few Scots know the calorie content of drinks – or the Chief Medical Officers’ weekly low-risk drinking guideline – when this information is not routinely provided by alcohol producers?

“It is unacceptable that a product linked to 10 deaths a day in Scotland continues to be exempt from laws on labelling that apply to everything else we eat and drink.

“The alcohol industry have dragged their feet for long enough – unless labelling requirements are set out in law we will continue to be kept in the dark about what is in our drinks and what the health risks are.

“We need reliable health and nutritional information directly on bottles and cans, where it can usefully inform our decisions.”

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