Call for calorific values on drinks labelling

31 October, 2014

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in the UK is calling on the drinks industry and newly appointed EU Health Commissioner to introduce calorie labelling for alcoholic drinks.

The call follows RSPH research which claims to show strong public backing for the move and a general lack of awareness among consumers about the calories contained in alcoholic drinks.

The society says a large glass of wine can contain around 200 calories - the same as a doughnut. Yet the the vast majority of people are blissfully unaware it says.

The drinks industry is said to be open to the idea of calorie labels, but that labelling drinks with units of alcohol was more important. Food already comes with calorie information, but alcohol is exempt from EU food labelling laws. The European Commission is considering whether drinks should also carry such information.

RSPH chief executive, Shirley Cramer, said: "Quite startling really - 80% of adults have no idea what the calorie count is in anything they're drinking and if they do think they have an idea they totally underestimate it anyway.

"It could help the nation's waistlines as well as probably reduce alcohol consumption."

In a small pub experiment conducted by the society, people who were told the calories content of their drink consumed 400 fewer calories in a session.

Ian Twinn director of public affairs at the ISBA, the trade body for advertisers, said: “Both obesity and excessive alcohol consumption are real issues that government have a stake in.

“The trouble with the claims by the medical campaigners and the pressure group activists is that they fail to see the whole picture. Calls for yet more info on labels misses the point rather spectacularly. Alcohol producers, through the Portman Group and their support for the Drink Aware campaigns have consistently focused the public's mind on responsible drinking. Understanding the amount of alcohol and its impact is important to us all,” says Twinn.

“Today's PR campaign from the obesity lobby confuses the binge drinking and obesity messages. Surely doctors and public health officials need to wonder why people do not understand the blindingly obvious that most food and drink will make us fat if we have too much and do not follow a balanced diet. Campaigns to make us aware of this simple fact would be a lot more effective than hectoring campaigns against consumers and businesses,” said Twinn.

The Royal Society for Public Health is an independent, multi-disciplinary charity, dedicated to the promotion and protection of collective human health and wellbeing. The society claims a membership of more 6,000 public health professionals encompassing a range of sectors and roles including health promotion, medicine, environmental health and food safety trainers.

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