Call for better alcohol labeling as most unaware of nutritional information

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Campaigners have called for better alcohol labelling as new research has found that that most of the public do not know the nutritional information of popular alcoholic drinks.

The YouGov survey on behalf of Action on Smoking and Health, also showed that the majority of Brits do not know the Chief Medical Officers’ drinking guidelines and were unlikely to look beyond the label in order to find health information on alcohol.

According to the survey, only 20 per cent of the public could correctly estimate how many calories were in a medium glass (175ml) of wine at 12% ABV (67 to 200 calories) and 23 per cent could do the same for a pint of lager at 5% ABV (120 to 359 calories). The number dropped to nine per cent in the case of a single measure (25ml) of spirits at 40% ABV (24 to 71 calories).

The number of people who didn’t know the information stood at 61 per cent, 62 per cent and 63 per cent respectively.

In addition, just 18 per cent of the public know that the Chief Medical Officers’ drinking guideline is to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week. 34 per cent did not know and 48 per cent answered incorrectly.

Although many alcohol labels display a website for consumers to visit to find out about health harms from alcohol, just 3 per cent of those surveyed by YouGov had visited a website printed on an alcohol product.

Professor Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, commented that the alcohol labelling in the country is “leaving consumers in the dark” 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,” Gilmore added.

Currently, the law only requires alcohol labels to show the strength of alcohol (ABV), allergens and the container’s volume and any other information – such as ingredients, nutritional information and health risks – is optional.

“The upcoming consultation on calorie labelling is a great opportunity for change,” Gilmore said. “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.”

Expressing concern on the lack of awareness on the CMOs’ drinking guideline, he also called for the inclusion of this health information on the label, along with other legible important health warnings and drink drive and pregnancy warnings.