Should calorie information be shown on alcoholic drinks?

A report released by The Royal Society for Public Health revealed that almost 90 per cent of people did not know the amount of calories in a pint of lager

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Indy Lifestyle Online

You can find out the nutritional information on a loaf of bread or chocolate bar in an instant, but doing the same for an alcoholic drink proves a little trickier.

Experts in the public health sector are calling for the introduction of nutritional information to be displayed on alcoholic beverages in the UK amid concerns that the high calorie content in alcoholic drinks is contributing to widespread obesity across the UK. The European Parliament is set to vote on whether calorie labels should be put on all alcoholic drinks.

Key players in the alcohol industry have often expressed their negativity, until recently. Last month Guinness producers Diageo announced that they would be displaying labelled nutrition information on their products in the US. The company’s product range also includes Smirnoff, Baileys, Captain Morgan and Johnnie Walker. Calories, carbohydrates, fat, as well as alcohol content will be readily available to view on all product packaging.

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There is no legal requirement in the UK for alcohol content and nutrition information to be displayed on alcoholic products, as it remains exempt from labelling under existing European legislation, a requirement only for food products. But our growing interest in counting calories and nutritional breakdowns on apps such as MyFitnessPal suggest that it is something that should be considered.

An ongoing campaign by The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) urges the European Health Commission to include alcohol labelling in EU Legislation. Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH stressed the need for calorie labelling: “While we continue to back unit labelling for alcoholic drinks, we believe that many people find calorie labelling easier to translate into their everyday lives. Calorie labelling has been successfully introduced for a wide range of food products and this should be extended to alcohol to help improve the public’s health.”


Many of the health conscious among us read the calorie information on the food we buy when purchasing items for lunch, or browsing products in the supermarket. But this is less likely when purchasing alcohol, or when drinking in a social environment, the most obvious reason being that a nutritional breakdown is not readily available, leaving many of us are unaware of the content of our favourite alcoholic drinks.

Experts raise concerns that a large number of drinkers are unaware of the number of calories in alcohol, and the high fat and calorie content. A report released by the RSPH revealed that almost 90 per cent of people surveyed did not know or incorrectly estimated the calories in a pint of lager. Over two-thirds (67 per cent) of people interviewed also claimed to actively support the addition of calories to alcohol labels.

Government attempts to educate the public on the negative effects of alcohol include the alcohol awareness website, an app through which you can track the number of units and calories in your drinks.

At present, some UK alcohol companies voluntarily provide information advocating the responsible drinking of their products, detailing the unit alcohol content per serving and per container. However, none display calorie or nutritional information.

Glenis Willmott, MEP for the East of England, has expressed support for mandatory alcohol labelling: "Europe is still the heaviest-drinking region in the world but many people don't realise that a large glass of wine contains the same number of calories as a slice of cake. In order to reduce the burden of alcohol-related harm, we must make sure people are given clear information to enable them to make informed choices."

Providing nutritional information for alcohol beverages to the public would allow consumers to better monitor their diets, and maintain a healthier lifestyle, pledge Eurocare (The European Alcohol Policy Alliance), a European network of public health organisations focusing on alcohol policy. Mariann Skar, Secretary General, European Alcohol Policy Alliance told The Independent: “bringing alcohol packaging in line with non-alcoholic beverage packaging would enhance consumer’s choice, and that energy and other nutritional information would help consumers to make informed decisions regarding alcohol intake”.