Swanswell welcomes calorie calls for alcohol labels

31 October 2014

Calls by a group of public health doctors to introduce calorie content on alcohol labels are being welcomed by Swanswell.

But the national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, believes existing health warnings need to be more prominent, so that people can make more informed decisions about how much they’re drinking.

Swanswell is responding to research from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), which is calling for changes to labelling to help reduce obesity, after finding 80% of adults surveyed had no idea about the calorie content of alcoholic drinks (BBC News, 2014).

The group also said calorie information should be displayed on restaurant menus, and on beer mats and pumps in pubs.

Part of the research included a small experiment in a pub. The RSPH found that customers who were given calorie information had 400 fewer calories on average, compared to those who hadn’t received it. 

As a guide, a large glass of white wine has around the same number of calories as a chocolate ring doughnut; four double gin and tonics equals a chicken korma and rice; and a bottle of alco-pop is around the same as a slice of pizza (Independent, 2014).

Alcohol is exempt from European Union food labelling laws, so does not currently need calorie information on labels, but in December, the European Commission is set to consider whether drinks should also carry this information.

Swanswell is encouraged by calls to add extra information to labels, but thinks existing warnings should be more prominent to help people make informed choices about their relationship with alcohol.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Education is key to helping people make informed choices about their alcohol use, so we’re encouraged by calls to add more information on labels for beer, wine and spirits, and in pubs.

However, it’s an opportunity to highlight the need for more prominent placement of existing health warnings on labels, and for better information at the point of sale in the off-licence trade, such as supermarkets.

This, along with other measures including the introduction of minimum unit pricing, will go a long way to tackle the harms of problem alcohol use and the £21 billion cost to society.

However, it’s not something any single government, organisation or individual can do on their own – we all have a part to play.’   

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